By Kevin Lee Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON – Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has introduced a budget repair proposal that would strip away nearly all collective bargaining rights for most of the state's public employee unions.
Under the proposal, unions would only be allowed to collectively bargain over wage increases, which would be capped at the rate of inflation unless voters decided otherwise.
Public employee union members would not have to pay union dues and employers would be barred from collecting dues, which could affect membership going forward.
“For those who might ask, ‘Why not bargain for this?’ Again, we’re not negotiating over a budget. If you’re going to negotiate, you’re going to do it in good faith, you have to have something to offer. The state’s broke, local governments (are) broke. They don’t have anything to offer,” he said.
Local police and firefighter groups, along with State Troopers and Inspectors, will be exempt from these changes.
The Associated Press is reporting that the Walker Administration will cancel contracts with five collective bargaining groups on Mar. 13.
AFSCME Executive Director Marty Beil did not immediately return phone calls.
Walker's move to weaken collective bargaining is likely to go through; Republican lawmakers have substantial majorities in both the Assembly and Senate.
Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, said Republicans had the votes to approve of the “unprecedented” move.
“We’re supposed to be passing bills that fit Wisconsin values and that there’s public support for them. But I suspect the reason (Republicans) are ramming this through so quickly is they really don’t want public input because I think they are afraid of what they might hear,” he said.
Public employee unions have been working without a contract for most of the last two years. Last November, former Gov. Jim Doyle negotiated contracts that would have lasted until this June with most of the collective bargaining groups, but the state Senate rejected them.
Unions had then agreed to concessions totaling $100 million. Through his budget repair package, Walker is requiring public employees to pay 5.8 percent towards their retirement funds and 12 percent towards their healthcare plans.
“It’s fair to ask public employees to make a pension payment of just over 5%, which is about the national average, and a premium payment of 12%, which is about half of the national average,” Walker said in a statement.
Walker has informed the National Guard to take precautions in light of the announcement.
“This is normal business for the guard, we don’t anticipate anything but are ready for everything. We are not specifically on-call," said Lt. Col. Jackie Guthrie with the Wisconsin National Guard.