Wisconsin Workers Feel the Bite of Walker Bill

After trying to have children, but finding themselves unable, Madison, Wisconsin resident Chris Bering and his wife were hoping to adopt. But then Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker proposed a radical overhaul of public employee collective bargaining rights. Although the battle over the Walker proposal took place in the depths of winter, August 25th marked the first day that the payroll changes took effect for Wisconsin workers. The cutbacks will force public workers to change their daily spending habits and for many -- their vision of their future. As a public employee, Bering has estimated the family will see about a $400 decrease per month. The cuts mean that he and his wife are now unsure whether they can financially support a child and their dream of adoption may be put on hold.

Several Hundred Gather to Demand "Shared Sacrifice" from Corporations Too

A crowd gathered at the Wisconsin Capitol Thursday to object to the payroll reductions, which will impact some 300,000 state, municipal and school district workers. The new collective bargaining law requires public workers to contribute nearly six percent more for their pensions and more for health care as well. While the cuts hurt, they were not the worst aspects of the bill, which is why the union conceded on the pay cuts right away. Other provisions of the bill show that the Walker agenda was much more about busting unions than saving money.

It is not "Austerity." It is THEFT by the OPULENT.The bill includes law changes that make it difficult for unions to exist, such as an annual recertification requirement which needs 51% of union members to vote to recertify. Union members, not union voters. Setting a certification standard of 51% of all members annually is setting an electoral standard that no American politician has ever met. This change has led unions like the Teachers Assistant Association (TAA), which played a huge role in the capitol protest, to decide that they would not fight to recertify, but would continue representing workers at the university as an uncertified union. They will not have the right to collective bargain for wages, but will advocate for their members in other ways.

Those gathered at the state Capitol Square called for an end to these attacks on working men and women. Many in the crowd would rather see an end to corporate welfare and in increase in tax on wealthy Wisconsin residents. As CMD recently reported major firms in Wisconsin pay nothing in state income tax. Chants of "how do you solve a deficit? tax tax tax the rich!" filled the air.

State Stops Withholding of Union Dues

The state will also no longer withhold union dues and send them to the union, which means unions will have to organize a new method to to re-sign all of their members and collect their dues. For Barb Peters, president of AFCSME Local 171 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, that means that her local chapter needs to re-sign some 1,600 members. "At the university we have over 70 buildings, three different shifts... can you imagine what a hassle this will be?"

The impact of this union busting measure is already being felt. Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC), the statewide teachers union, announced this month it will lay off 40 percent of its employees in response to the financial burden of the new law. AFSME has not yet announced whether it will also need to make cuts.

Walker Actions Bite in More Ways Than One

For a final kick in the teeth, the Walker administration recently notified the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) that payroll deductions for union-sponsored dental insurance plans would also be eliminated. This new action put an end to a policy that cost the state nothing, but merely facilitated much needed dental coverage for thousands of union members. Walker gave little warning to AFSCME that this change would take place, sending the union scrambling to provide coverage for its members.

"This move was taken just to be vindictive," Peters said. "It doesn't help the state financially, it just makes things harder for working people."

Walker -- Pickpocket!Margaret Mead, a correctional sergeant with the Praire du Chien Corrections Institute calls the latest move Walker's "personal vendetta." Her husband needs extensive dental work, and now she has to move quickly to see if she can make sure her family is covered by dental insurance again.

Next steps for Wisconsin workers? Recall Walker signs, chants and T-shirts were common at Thursday's rally.


I can't believe that public workers even make enough money to have $400 dollars per paycheck taken out. I don't know a lot of people that make $400.00 per week or every other week for that matter. This is exactly why our taxes are so high. If the employees don't like it then they can quit their jobs and let a person who would like to have a job of any kind that pays what ever they get to keep after these cutbacks. Stop bawling about the cuts and start living within the means of the new income just like the rest of the states population has had to do.

Dear Anonymous defenders of the Walker cuts: First of all, the article does not state anywhere that the $400 deduction is per week. People are often paid twice a month or even once a month. Second of all, it is undeniable that state workers are facing steep deductions due to Walker's changes to both health insurance and pensions. The notion that you cannot imagine retirement and insurance amounting to this much makes me wonder, quite frankly, if you have actually priced health insurance lately at all. Second of all, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, for the average state worker making $50,000 a year, the deductions add up to a 9 percent cut, or roughly $4,400, in take-home pay. But many workers make less than $50,000 and for them, the cuts go deeper. (That is, these are averages, some are taking more of a hit for family health coverage or retirement than others.) Third, despite the right-wing propaganda you may well have been fed by FOX and their echo chamber, the fact is that state workers actually are not better paid than private sector counterparts with comparable education and experience. In fact, many workers chose public service over higher pay and took less in pay in exchange for basic benefits like health insurance coverage and pensions to supplement the rock bottom poverty payments that social security amounts to. When will you stop accepting the frame that the billionaires bankrolling the propaganda that pits you against other workers as opposed to demanding that the billionaires and corporations pay their fair share, as Warren Buffett has eloquently explained? Lisa

If his increased pension & insurance contributions will really cost him $400 a month, that puts Mr. Bering's salary into the six-figure range. If that's going to keep them from adopting (with the huge tax credits available), he & his wife must be very profligate spenders, indeed!

I would think that Public employees would be happy to have a job with pensions and benefits. As someone who has had three different companies go under because of the economy, I would be thrilled to pay for a pension and have health insurance. Frankly, those in the public sector have been living on the gravy train for some time and they needed to adjust to what the realities in the marketplace are. Very few private companies if any, have the kind of benefits that the public sector employees have enjoyed for years.

Take a look at this. http://www.newsmax.com/Headline/unions-trumka-democrats-donations/2011/08/25/id/408713?s=al&promo_code=CEB9-1. The unions are leaving the Democratic Party. Remember all the protesters in Madison, remember the zombies, remember the damage done. Remember the fists on the posters. All of that is over. There is no more loyalty. The teachers are leaving the unions. The unions are leaving the Democrats. The whole thing just disintegrated. Why do you think that happened? It's because the goals of the Democratic Party were not sustainable because you can't pull money out of other people’s pockets if there is no money there to begin with! The people that were protesting were the very upper middle class. The lower middle class and the poor just watched as these very selfish people just wanted more more more for themselves. They didn't care if 2500 of their fellow workers would be laid off; they just wanted more for themselves. These people fall by the wayside eventually by the weight of their own greed. Can you imagine what life would be like if the unions spent those billions of dollars trying to put more people to work for a civil wage? Can you imagine how many union members there would be? Everyone would want to be a member! Instead, selfishness and greed took over, unions are failing everywhere, and they are pulling the Democratic Party over the cliff with them. The parasite only feeds on the host when the host is healthy. Once the host is sick, the parasite leaves. Wisconsin is now becoming healthy again no thanks to the Democratic Party.

Joel12345 will never argue the issues. His or her posts are nothing more than knee jerk righ-wing propaganda, all of them usually are the same empty rhetoric, missing is intelligent commentary, but big on right wing propaganda. His or her comments amount to "Democrats Bad." Joel12345 will never argue that unions were necessary to stop a new form of slavery that arose in the 1920's and 30's when corporations began the exploitation of our goverment and our people. Our ancestors fought and died to form unions and give us fair wages, homes, good health care, education, and infrastructure. Abraham Lincoln, who was a republican, favored unions, because they protected human dignity and grew the middle class. Walker wants us to adopt China labor standards, essentially the same labor standards present in America in the early 1900's - low wages, little rights, and oppression by the corporate overlords. At one time, China controlled its population through starvation. Walker even admitted in an interview that he would hold public employees jobs hostages if they did not captitulate wtih him. Walker does this because he is tool of a new generation of 1900's Robber Barrons' from the good old days of deregulation and the rule of greed. Walker has no conscious, he is not a Christian. In the budget repair bill, Walker gave Wisconsin the ability to privatize water, and sell it. That is why the Koch's are ultimately here. To exploit Wisconsin, drain our natural resources, strip the middle class of its accummulated wealth by transfering it to the rich - and themselves. Like in Texas, Walker will give Wisconsin corporations the ability to pollute with impunity, wrecking our water and air for centuries to com. By the time the Kochs leave Wisconsin, it will be a superfund site. The situation is not unlike the kings of Saudi Arabia who take all of the wealth from the oil, and give little back to the people. Why are the kings in power in Saudi Arabia? Because they are a US puppet government who allow our corporations to exploit the wealth of their people. The Wisconsin Walker administration is a puppet government. I will bet every reader out there that Joel 12345 cannot give an intelligent rhetort. What he will say if he answers is that this just ignorant left wing democrats blathering, blah, blah, blah. But tell me Joe12345 when the unions end, who will protect the American workers from exploitation? What makes you think the robber barrons will help you? You are next. You cannot save yourself from the poison they will fill our air and water with. Democrat or Republican we breath the same air and drink the same water.

Why would signing 1600 signatures be a hassel? they were bragging about knocking on 300,000 doors in one district during the recall elections.

I've updated the piece to clarify that the Bering family has estimated it will see about a $400 decrease per month. The piece previously stated $400 per paycheck. Hopefully that clears up any confusion with the piece. Thanks, Sara

Many in the private sector complain that public sector employees have it too good, with decent pay, pensions and benefits that they don't have. But why don't they? This is the richest country in the world; the richest in the world's history. Why don't all its citizens have excellent wages and benefits? The answer lies in the fact that for the past 30 years (of conservative government) all productivity increases, which have quadrupled in that time, have gone to the rich, and virtually none to the working classes, destroying the middle class in the process. It's not public employee unions that are destroying the lower classes; it's the filthy rich, who never have enough. CEOs make 400-1700 times the lowest paid worker, yet I never hear conservatives complaining about the grossly overpaid rich. Teachers who make $50,000 a year are paid too much, but CEOs who make tens of millions and hundreds of millions a year are just fine according to conservatives. Inherited wealth is even worse. These people do no work but have tons of money, making them parasites and thieves living off other people's labor. They are much bigger parasites than the welfare people conservatives always dump on. Unions are the last bastion of middle class jobs. If they are destroyed we will have a society with a few obscenely wealthy oligarchic families while everyone else is poor. Congrats conservatives!