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Latest News - February 2014

February 23, 2014
New York Times delves into Act 10's impact on Wisconsin's unions
Source: The Capital Times
By: Michelle Stocker

At this time three years ago, the budget repair bill that would eventually become known officially as 2011 Wisconsin Act 10 was still awaiting a vote in the State Assembly as protest crowds swelled at the Capitol.

Today, the state's public-sector unions are struggling with the impact of the law, which reduces their collective-bargaining rights to a fraction of what they once had.

On the front of Sunday's Business section, the New York Times had a comprehensive look at the aftermath of Act 10 as it relates to unions in the state that once was the first to give them the right to negotiate contracts.

Labor and workplace reporter Steven Greenhouse used interviews with state and local officials as well as union members to lay out both sides of the argument around Gov. Scott Walker's signature legislation.

Financially strapped local governments have saved money at the expense of worker morale, the article noted.

"It's been a kind of double-edged sword," Oneida County director of human resources Lisa Charbarneau said in the story. "It's saved some money, but it's hurt morale. It's put a black eye, so to speak, on being a government employee, whether management or hourly. All government employees seem to have taken a hit, there's this image that they're sucking all these good benefits."

The story covered how unions lost membership when they lost the ability to collectively bargain for anything but base pay that's tied to inflation. Act 10 eliminated the requirement that all employees represented by a union pay dues and stopped governments from taking dues out of paychecks.

And it touched on the political impact, both in suggestions that Walker had designs on weakening unions to negate their political influence and on how the 2014 gubernatorial election will be another referendum on the change.

"For not just Wisconsin unions, but national unions, I'm at the top of the list of people they'd have on a platter," Walker told the Times. "Not just for retribution, but they understand that if they could take me out, it would send a very powerful message to other governors and other mayors. But if we're able to win again in a tough, evenly divided battleground state, that would send another message — that you can take on some of these issues and still survive."




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