Sunday, February 23, 2014

Scott Walker's Right-to-Work Legislation Has Had 'Devastating Effect' on Wisconsin's Public-Sector Unions

This is why the left seethes with burning hatred for Governor Walker.

At the New York Times, "Wisconsin’s Legacy for Unions":

Althouse Wisconsin Unions photo 6970512965_bf62314c3e_zps824de391.jpg
Three years ago, a labor leader named Marty Beil was one of the loudest opponents of Gov. Scott Walker’s “budget repair bill,” a proposal that brought tens of thousands of protesters out to the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison in frigid February weather. A gruff-voiced grizzly of a man, Mr. Beil warned that the bill was rigged with booby traps that would cripple the state’s public-sector unions.

He gets no satisfaction from being right. Since the law was passed, membership in his union, which represents state employees, has fallen 60 percent; its annual budget has plunged to $2 million from $6 million.

Mr. Walker’s landmark law — called Act 10 — severely restricted the power of public-employee unions to bargain collectively, and that provision, among others, has given social workers, prison guards, nurses and other public employees little reason to pay dues to a union that can no longer do much for them. Members of Mr. Beil’s group, the Wisconsin State Employees’ Union, complain that their take-home pay has fallen more than 10 percent in recent years, a sign of the union’s greatly diminished power.

“It’s had a devastating effect on our union,” Mr. Beil, its executive director, said of Act 10. He was sitting in his Madison office, inside the headquarters that his union, hard up for cash, may be forced to sell. The building is underused anyway, as staff reductions have left many offices empty.

Wisconsin was the first state to grant public-sector unions the right to negotiate contracts. Before Gov. Gaylord Nelson signed that law in 1959, only unionized workers in private companies had a government-protected right to bargain collectively. But the Wisconsin idea soon spread around the country. Act 10 is an about-face, and Mr. Walker and his Republican supporters see it as a tough-minded strategy that other states can follow. History repeating itself, if in reverse.

Many labor leaders and union members are still fuming about the law. It bars public-sector unions from bargaining over pensions, health coverage, safety, hours, sick leave or vacations. All they can negotiate is base pay, and even that is limited: any raises they win cannot exceed inflation.

“I speak to union officials in other states, and I tell them, ‘Don’t be misled,’ ” Mr. Beil said. “We thought this could never happen here. But it did. You have to stay vigilant.”

Mr. Walker, who is widely viewed as a Republican presidential contender in 2016, has already emboldened other Republican-controlled states to enact measures that weaken unions and cut benefits. Tennessee and Idaho passed laws that cut back bargaining rights for public schoolteachers, while Ohio curbed collective bargaining for all state employees — though that law was repealed in a 2011 referendum. Even longtime union strongholds like Michigan and Indiana have enacted right-to-work laws that undercut private-sector unions by banning any requirements that workers pay union dues or fees. (A state judge’s decision that declared the Indiana law unconstitutional is being appealed to the state’s Supreme Court.)

Mr. Walker’s tough stance toward public-employee unions has steeled governors and mayors grappling with large unfunded pension obligations. And his criticisms of pensions have been reinforced by the turmoil in Detroit, where the often-generous and sometimes scandal-ridden pension system played a substantial role in the city’s bankruptcy.

“You’re seeing more politicians willing to stand up to public-sector unions,” said Gary Chaison, a professor of labor relations at Clark University. “Fairly or unfairly, public-sector unions are increasingly being seen as part of the problem.”
Photo Credit: Althouse (on Flickr).