State Finally Posts Pending Labor Agreements, Committee Vote Set for Tuesday

MacIver News Service | December 10, 2010

[Madison, Wisc…] The State of Wisconsin’s Office of State Employment relations has finally posted the pending labor agreements with their government unions online.

They can be accessed, here.

The move comes more than a week after the MacIver Institute began posting copies of the summaries of the agreements on their website.

The legislature’s Joint Committee on Employment Relations will be holding hearing on the contracts on Tuesday, December 14, 2010 in room 411 South in the State Capitol in Madison.  The meeting is open to the public.

Members of the JCOER must approve the agreements before they move on to the full legislature. No date for a special or extraordinary session has been made public, although it is expected to take place within the next ten days, perhaps even later that same week.

“We know that leadership in the current legislature is organizing a special session during the week of 12/13/2010 to ratify these and other bargaining units,” two labor leaders wrote in a letter to their membership last month.

The labor leaders also appear to have been given a heads up as to the upcoming legislative calendar, a courtesy not extended to legislative Republicans or the general public.

Only one time in the 162-year history of the State of Wisconsin has a lame-duck legislature approved such agreements, when one contract was approved in November of 1974.

Governor-elect Scott Walker has asked legislative leaders to hold off on approving the contracts, saying negotiating more concessions would save taxpayers’ money and could prevent cuts in government-provided services such as Medical Assistance and the Public Defenders office.

“In light of the State of Wisconsin’s current fiscal year $150 million budget shortfall and impending $3.3 billion structural deficit, returning and newly elected officials are going to need maximum flexibility to craft and work through our current and next state budget,” Walker wrote in a letter to current Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker (D-Weston) and his replacement, current Senate Minority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau). Current Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan (D-Janesville) and incoming Speaker, current Assembly Leader Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon) also received the letter from the Governor-elect.

Special and extraordinary sessions are similar in that they are called solely to consider one or more specified topics or pieces of legislation. A special session is called by the governor and an extraordinary session is initiated by the legislature.

The administration of outgoing governor Jim Doyle (D) has reached tentative agreements with 16 of the 19 government employee bargaining units, including:

  • WI State Building Trades Negotiating Committee, AFL-CIO
  • WI Professional Employees Council, AFT-Wisconsin, AFT, AFL-CIO
  • SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin
  • WI State Attorneys Association, Inc
  • WI Science Professionals, AFT-Wisconsin, AFT, Local 3732
  • Milwaukee Graduate Assistants Association, AFT-Wisconsin, Local 2169, AFL-CIO
  • WI Education Association
  • WI Physicians and Dentists Association, AFT-Wisconsin, AFT, AFL-CIO
  • Teaching Assistants Association, AFT-Wisconsin, Local 3220, AFL-CIO
  • WI Law Enforcement Association
  • Professional Employees in Research, Statistics and Analysis, AFT-Wisconsin, AFT, AFL-CIO
  • WI State Employees Union, AFSCME Council 24 and subcommittees (Administrative support. Blue collar and nonbuilding trades, Professional social services, Security and public safety, Technical collective bargaining units)

According to a memo by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, which Walker released this week, in fiscal year 2011 (which ends June 30) the State of Wisconsin is facing the following shortfalls:

  • $148 million in Medicaid
  • $9.5 million in the Office of Public Defender
  • $90.7 million in the Transportation Fund

Walker’s office indicated that minor changes to the proposed labor agreements could reap significant savings.

Requiring state workers to make a 5% contribution to their own pensions would  save the state $95 million in FY11 if implemented from January through June. The Walker team also says adjustments could also be made to state employees’ health insurance plans to allow an additional $59 million of savings to be realized yet this fiscal year.

“If the legislative majorities ram through union contracts prior to dealing with the budget shortfall they created, it will be much more difficult to protect those Wisconsinites who receive MA or who are in need of help from public defenders,” Walker said.