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Union-Negotiated Work Rules for Public Employees Cost Taxpayers Dearly

Comments | Posted in Featured, mi perspectives | By MacIver Institute | Posted February 16, 2011 2:48 PM

After spending several days complaining about Governor Walker’s proposed compensation changes for state employees (as if a 100 percent match on pension contributions and picking up 87 percent of health insurance premiums were raw deals) the union operatives have shifted gears.

“It’s about rights, not pay,” is their new mantra. Organized government employee unions are expressing panic over their would-be inability to negotiate items other than pay. They are specifically troubled at the prospect of no longer being able to dictate work rules, engage in union activities during the work week or participate in negotiated procedures to mitigate their grievances against management.

News flash. The work rules and grievance procedures for public employee unions cost taxpayers dearly in loss of productivity; and state taxpayers can no longer afford to sit by while some employees engage in union-related activities rather than performing the duties for which they are presumably employed.

The various contracts between the state of Wisconsin and their multiple government employee unions contain dozens of provisions regarding guaranteeing the ability of union stewards to operate in and out of the workplace, often while paid.

They are allowed to use work interoffice mail, phones, email and fax machines to communicate union business.

They are guaranteed time off to attend union-mandated educational classes as well as to attend annual union conventions.

Employees on leave without pay to attend to union and contract bargaining activities are allowed to still accrue vacation and sick leave, not for time working for the state, but for time participating in authorized union activities.

The most-senior employees are generally allowed to bump down to a lower classification if they are minimumly qualified to perform the new job, yet they still maintain their current rate of pay when (or more precisely if) layoffs occur. This routinely leaves the newest employees the most vulnerable while reducing the cost-savings associated with employee attrition.

Those who do receive notice of layoffs are allowed to search for new employment while at work.

These work rules are so pervasive and the contracts are so arcane, that they actually mandate the size of the bulletin boards at the work place. (You think I’m kidding?)

The Employer shall provide bulletin boards at locations mutually agreed upon for use by the local Unions to enable employees of the bargaining unit to see notices posted thereon.  Such mutual agreement shall be arrived at locally.  The normal size of new bulletin boards will be eight (8) square feet.  The Employer will maintain bulletin boards provided under prior negotiated collective bargaining agreements and they need not conform to the normal size.  In the event any new bulletin boards are mutually agreed upon, the Employer shall pay fifty percent (50%) and the Union shall pay fifty percent (50%) of the cost of such new boards.


None of these provisions give taxpayers more return on their investment in these employees. They may strengthen the union, but again that is counter-productive to the best interest of the employer (read: Taxpayer).

And the work rule insanity is not limited to state employees. There are a myriad of examples at the municipal and school district level, too.

As I wrote in November: Since the advent of government employee unions in the middle of the 20th Century, “the cost and scope of government in the United States has grown exponentially. Government employs more, attempts to do more, involves itself more and more into previously private matters and consumes larger and larger amounts of private sector wealth to fuel this binge. This growth is fueled by the influence of public employee unions, who gain their power through taxpayer paid union dues, which in turn are used to leverage policies that lead to the increase in the size, scope and cost of government, which means more public employee union members, which means more union dues and the cycle continues.

The result?

We now have more government jobs than manufacturing jobs in Wisconsin.

We used to be a state where we make things. Now we are a state that makes excuses for why the government behemoth cannot be tamed.”

This budget repair bill is a step in taming the behemoth. The Walker Administration projects $330 million in savings over the next two years. What is not calculated is the increased productivity taxpayers will see when union business is no longer conducted on their dime.

You can’t balance the state’s budget by these measures alone, but without these measures, the budget won’t balance, workers will be let go, children will be kicked off Medicaid, or a combination of those results will occur.

So that, folks, is why changes to collective bargaining practices are included in the budget repair bill, alongside the wage and benefit changes. Doing so will save taxpayers money.

By Brian Fraley
A MacIver Institute Perspective


Selected provisions of various state employee contracts

Paying for union-related work

The Employer and the Union agree that the Employer will pay one hundred percent (100%) of the cost of mutually agreed to bargaining time for the2007-2009 contract negotiations until Labor Day of 2009. From Labor Day until the conclusion of the bargaining session, the Employer and the Union agree to equally share the cost. WSEU Contract.

The shared cost will apply only to each of the twenty-five (25) employees of the five (5) bargaining units represented by the Wisconsin State Employees Union, plus the WSEU Union President.  The qualifying shared time will be recorded as time off without loss of pay.

Convention Attendance Absences

Duly elected Union delegates or alternates to the biennial convention of the AFSCME, AFL-CIO, shall be granted time off without pay and without loss of benefits, not to exceed a total of ten (10) workdays, to attend said convention.

This time off may be charged to vacation credits, holiday credits, compensatory time or to administrative leave without pay and without loss of benefits as the individual employee may designate.

Absences for Educational Classes

Employees who are elected or selected by the Union to attend educational classes conducted by or for the Union shall be granted time off without pay and without loss of benefits for the purpose of participating in such classes.

All local and statewide union officers and representatives will be granted two (2) days per contract year without pay and without loss of benefits to attend union training sessions

Accruing vacation and sick leave while on unpaid leave for union biz.

Employees on leave of absence without pay shall continue to earn vacation and sick leave for the first two hundred sixteen (216) hours of time spent per calendar year in authorized Union activities contained in Article II, Section 6 (Union Conventions, Educational Classes, and Bargaining Unit Conferences) and Section 8 (Attendance at Local Union Meetings or Monthly Steward Meetings).

Employees on leave of absence without pay shall continue to earn vacation and sick leave for time spent in authorized union activities contained in Article II, Section 12 (Executive Board) and for contract negotiations meetings with the Employer [six (6) designated members of the Union’s bargaining team from each of the bargaining units covered by this Agreement].  A total of up to six (6) employees from all six (6) bargaining units on leave of absence under 13/8/3 shall also be covered.  Such coverage shall be limited to a cumulative period of time of up to one

(1) year per person for the life of the contract.

It is expressly understood that the Union or the employee can contribute to the Wisconsin Retirement Fund an amount equal to the amount that both the employee and the Employer would have contributed to the Wisconsin Retirement Fund if the employee had not been on leave of absence without pay.

The Union shall be allowed to prepay the retirement contributions for employees (at differing rates for employees in general or protective occupations) who are on leaves of absence without pay for contract negotiations.  The contribution for an employee shall be based on the compensation the employee would be deemed to have been paid (at their then current base rate of pay) for the time during which the employee would be on a leave of absence without pay for contract negotiations.  If the Union chooses to prepay said retirement contributions, it shall be obligated to prepay both the employee’s and the Employer’s contribution.

Use of taxpayer-supplied phones, other resources

Local Union officers and stewards may use existing teleph0ne facilities during non instructional hours for Union business providing such use does not interfere with the normal operations of the facility.

Existing e-mail facilities may be used by Union officers and representatives for Union business providing such use does not interfere with or disrupt normal operations of the facility.

Processing Grievances

The grievant will be permitted a reasonable amount of time without loss of pay to process his/her grievance during his/her non-instructional work hours.

Union representatives will be permitted a reasonable amount of time without loss of pay to process grievances during their non-instructional working hours in their jurisdictional areas.

Work Hours/TransfersBumping/Layoff Assistance

Permanent changes of shift or days of the week shall not be made unless locally negotiated.

An employee who voluntarily demotes in lieu of layoff will continue to receive his/her current rate of pay, plus any subsequent across-the-board pay adjustments unless the employee demotes more than two (2) pay ranges lower than the position from which the employee is laid off.

An employee who has received written notice from the Appointing Authority of being at risk of layoff or who has received a notice of layoff shall be granted one or more of the following


  • Up to forty(40) hours without loss of pay to attend job training;..

  • Up to forty (40 hours of time without loss of pay for job search activities, including interviews and examinations…

  • Use of office equipment and supplies where available

  • Teacher placement services at the University of Wisconsin without cost to the employee