Governor Scott Walker is currently running a million dollar TV ad campaign on "Promises Kept," but after misleading the public on his plans to radically reshape collective bargaining in the state, Walker can't even be bothered to negotiate with the few unions who played by the new rules and are coming to the bargaining table in good faith.
Complaint Filed Over Walker Administration's Failure to Negotiate
A year after the passage of Wisconsin's Act 10, the "Budget Repair Bill" which stripped public-sector unions of their right to collectively bargain on most issues, two public-sector unions filed unfair labor practice complaints with the administration. This is due to Walker's failure to negotiate on the single issue left to the unions, base pay.
When Walker introduced the bill in February of 2011 he insisted that he was not eliminating collective bargaining rights, just limiting them. In an interview with WISN's Mike Gousha, Walker said, "we looked at every option, but in this case we said we could narrow [bargaining] down, still have a role for collective bargaining, still have a role for public employee unions, but cap it in so that the taxpayers aren't trumped." When asked if he saw "any need for public employee unions in this state, philosophically" he responded with "If I didn't, I would have eliminated collective bargaining all over."
While abolishing collective bargaining for benefits, working conditions, and other issues, Walker allowed bargaining for wages, although he simultaneously capped wage increases to the cost of living. This rather confusing formula means that workers are likely to demand cost-of-living increases, while the Walker administration will likely demand less than cost-of-living increases. Walker's bill also made it prohibitively hard for public-sector unions to organize or even exist by mandating that the unions could only recertify if they got 51 percent of the vote of all bargaining unit members, not just of voting members. This necessitates not just a simple majority, but 100 percent voter turnout -- a standard no elected official has ever met.
"We Have Been Met by Silence"
Not surprisingly, many public-sector unions in the state chose not to officially recertify or "negotiate" under these terms. Those that did recertify, are finding Walker unwilling to negotiate even under his own terms.
According to the Wisconsin State Journal, the Wisconsin State Attorney's Association and the Professional Education and Information Council both filed unfair labor practices complaints this week claiming that state officials have refused to negotiate or even meet with them.
Nancy Wetterson, vice-president of the Wisconsin State Attorney's Association said, "We didn't like Act 10, but we played by the rules, and our union was overwhelmingly elected, but now we have talked to them (several) times about beginning negotiations, and we have been met by silence." For its part, the administration says it cannot begin negotiating until it finalizes new rules calculating base pay. Stay tuned.