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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

You know who else lies? Scott Walker.

by folkbum

I've had this story from the weekend open in a tab for a couple of days now, so I don't remember where I found it or who linked to it or what. It's a story, the bazillionth this month, about how public employees are saying "screw it" to the uncertainty* of life without a union and retiring, in some cases years before they really wanted to.

So nothing new per se in that story. But here's the lede, the part that has led me to keep the tab open (my emphasis):
To teachers and other government employees who are considering retiring because they're worried about the ramifications of Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill, Walker has two words: Please stay.

Employees will not lose the benefits they have accrued, Walker said during a stop Saturday at rest area 11, off the southeast-bound lanes of Interstate 39/90/94 near Poynette, where he addressed the Veterans of the American Revolution Memorial Bridge dedication.

"All we're asking for," Walker said, "is that local governments get more contributions to health care and retirement from public employees."

Unions have misled people, including those they represent, about the ramifications of the budget repair bill, which is tied up in court and not in effect, he said.

By asking public employees to contribute toward their retirement and health-care coverage, Walker said, he's merely asking that they do, to a smaller degree, what many private-sector employees already do.
Please note that this, from Walker, is a complete and utter fabrication. A lie, if you will.

A pay cut--which, because compensation, including pensions and health care, is all of a piece, is what the economic concessions amount to--was not in any way "all" Walker was asking for. A pay cut was not "merely" the extent of what the budget repair bill did to public-employee unions across the state. If that were "all," if that were "merely" it, this would have been settled months ago and we'd have long since moved on to something else to collectively ansgt over.

Instead, the budget repair bill completely eliminates all collective bargaining over everything currently covered by contracts except salary. (Salary is bargainable but capped at the rate of inflation, so not really bargainable at all.)

My current contract is more than 250 pages long (the contract before the current one is available online here as a 258-page pdf; the contract we approved last fall has not yet been published online that I know of). It is long in part because the columns are skinny and there's funny spacing and it's got lots of pages of charts and tables as appendices. And the bulk of this contract has nothing to do with salary, pension, or health insurance. The bulk of the contract has to do with working conditions--what happens within classrooms and schools to make sure that the best education for our kids is happening at all times.

The contract covers everything from the steps that must be taken when a teacher is assaulted at school to how many days long the school year is or how long a school day is. It covers how and how often teachers should be evaluated and under what circumstances they can be removed from a building or a job altogether (i.e., protecting them from the whimsy of administrators). It establishes a procedure for handling teacher complaints that doesn't involve suing anybody (see comments to previous posts about this--"just sue them" is a common "solution" proposed for handling this sort of thing without a contract). It includes a no-strike provision and a requirement that teachers live in the city they serve. It establishes a mentor program for new teachers and veterans who need help. And on and on--all kinds of things that, literally, will be eliminated at the stroke of midnight on July 1, 2013 when the contract expires.

Every public-employee union in the state has its own contract and its own list of non-compensation items covered by contract. And every single one of them--with the exception of police and fire, because those unions endorsed Walker--will lose all of those protections.

And for all of you in the private sector who say, "I don't have blah blah blah," two things. One, if you wanted, you could unionize today. Yes you can!

Two, the private sector, even non-union shops, still fall under the jurisdiction of federal labor laws. Public sector employees do not! There may be a patchwork of civil-service laws in place or redeveloped across the state--those laws were superceded or let to lapse when public employees unionized and gained the right to bargain--but in the end, there is a real possibility that all or most job protections that the private sector enjoys will be gone for public employees in Wisconsin if the budget repair bill stands and after existing contracts expire.

That is a far cry from "All we're asking for is that local governments get more contributions to health care and retirement from public employees."

Scott Walker, simply, lied.

* Uncertainty is a bad thing, from a conservative perspective, when it comes to tax rates and environmental regulation. Employees' future compensation and working conditions, though? "Oooh, please stay, whiny whiny." Bah.

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