Breaking: Falk Announces She Will Kill Walker Rule That Opens Door for Teacher Pay Cuts | Wis.Community

Breaking: Falk Announces She Will Kill Walker Rule That Opens Door for Teacher Pay Cuts

In an with Sly this morning, gubernatorial candidate Kathleen Falk became the first candidate to come out strong against Scott Walker's new Act 10 implementation rule that gives School Boards the "tool" to balance their budgets by not including approximately 30% in teacher salaries that comes from so-called educational add-ons.    (School boards can restore that 30% funding outside of the teacher salary contracts, but the rule will give them the political cover to make pay cuts.)

Falk spoke out against the rule and said she would repeal it:

Sly: I assume you saw the State Journal piece about his most recent decision that he made with the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission...

Falk: Yes

Sly: ...Where he is literally, arbitrarily saying that school districts can devastate teacher pay by going after all the academic advancement they've gone over the years.  He keeps talking about merit pay, you talk about something that takes merit out of education... he's single-handedly going take away one of Wisconsin's greatest assets and that's our public education system

Falk: Well, and he already did that by making the biggest cut to education in our state's history, you know, in addition to the fact that he was not honest with us voters about his extreme agenda, as I've been out there working the last whole 15 months, I believe that the biggest cut to education in our state's history is the most motivating reason why people from every walk of life grandparents, mothers, students have energized to have this recall

Then, moments later:

Sly: I have a lot of teachers that listen on their way to work. Scott Walker, attacking the base wages of teachers and going after the, taking away the wonderful work they've done with coninuing education... that wasn't part of Act 10, he did that the other day by, uh...

Falk: by rule

Sly: ...with the signature of a pen, by rule-- will you repeal that?

Falk: Yes.  And it's an example of the abuse because of the power he gave himself to control the rule making process from beginning to end.

According to Tim Hawks, one of the state's top labor attorneys who represents the Madison and Green Bay Teacher Unions, American Federation of Teachers Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Firefighters Association; if Scott Walker is booted from office, the new governor could toss-out the implementation rule immediately.

Here is the transcript of the Sly did with Hawks last Thursday explaining the new Act 10 implementation rule, with the section talking about how a new governor could throw out the rule in bold:

Sly:                       Did you believe your eyes when you first saw this?

Tim Hawks:        Uh No, Sly, no. The governor’s provision of the WERC’s rule makes bargaining a complete joke for one group and only one group in the state and that is the state’s teachers.

Sly:                       Alright, so, let me just try to figure this out because I had another labor attorney earlier this week and I think there’s been a fair amount of confusion. He goes, “I’m not sure why you’re making a big deal out of this. When Act 10 passed ---there’s nothing new here. What is new here?”

Tim Hawks:        What’s new here begins with the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission’s proposed rule, which was issued back in February. That rule looked at all public employees, professional, white collar, blue collar, and said, “in order to apply Act 10, we need to begin with the determination of what these employees are currently making and then we do identify that amount and apply Act 10 to that amount to determine what can be bargained for wages and salary increases collectively in the future.

Sly:                       So the determination of the starting point is what’s new?

Tim Hawks:        That is correct.

Sly:                       So does the rule apply to increases or all wages?

Tim Hawks:        All wages.

Sly:                       Alright, can you give an example?

Tim Hawks:        Yeah, well, you take a look at the MTI contract for example. You have a number of teachers that are in the salary schedule that’s contained in that contract and they are on the right side of that salary schedule that reflects the compensation they receive for additional education beyond their bachelor’s. Under the new rule, every one of those employees is deemed to have a base wage that excludes all of that compensation that’s attributable to additional education. We say it moves all of them back to the BA base lane on the salary schedule. In MTI’s case that’s a reduction of about 10%. In the case of many other school districts, that’s a reduction of up to 30% of a teacher’s salary. Now that’s not what they’re actually going to get paid; that’s where the union begins to bargain. It bargains up to the inflation rate, up to the CPI increase on that base. But really, it’s a kind of foolishness. It would be like you, Sly, going in to the station to negotiate your salary and the station replying, saying, “Well, we’ll agree, by contract, to 70% of your proposal, and we’ll just sort of leave the last 30% up to our discretion during the course of the year.” There’s no contract at all.

Sly:                       Tim Hawks with us, labor lawyer, MTI lawyer. We are talking about the latest attack not only on teachers but it’s my understanding this could affect Dane County social workers and social workers all over our state, and in some cases some people that work for some of the other utilities such as the water utility.

                             Ok, so let me ask you this: do they bargain the wages for individual teachers or for the pool?

Tim Hawks:        Under the WERC rule, they would be bargaining, as they have in the past, the distribution of the money for all members, all individuals, in the bargaining unit represented by the union.

Sly:                       Would a school be permitted to enter into a side agreement with unions about additional educational pay, could they do that?

Tim Hawks:        Under Act 10, they  could do that, yes.

Sly:                       Will teachers be worse off if they stay in their union?

Tim Hawks:        No, absolutely not.

Sly:                       Because there was some concern that this could actually make things worse.

Tim Hawks:        This will make bargaining worse but having a labor organization present, and on the scene, will not.

Sly:                       It seems to me that Peter Davis from the WERC is sort of trying to keep the pot at a low simmer here by saying that school districts will not actually use this tool. Do you think school districts –let’s just pull one right out of a hat here, let’s just say….. New Berlin! You probably know why I picked New Berlin.

Tim Hawks:        I do, indeed. Look, the bottom line here is that a school district will have the discretion to do what it wishes with teachers’ salaries, and that is not a good thing, particularly not if you are a believer in collective bargaining and the notion that collective bargaining will secure and, over time, elevate the wages hours and conditions of employment. This eliminates that tool for workers to try to improve their working conditions.

Sly:                       What would be the motivation.. first of all, I’ll probably get myself in trouble here but I think that wages for teachers were already too low, before Scott Walker started whacking away, when you look at the level of education that teachers have.

Tim Hawks:        Actually, Sly, let me follow up, if you don’t mind the interruption, let me follow up on that point. Back in 2004, I reviewed one of the large urban school district’s salary for the 10 years that preceded it. You may recall that in 1994, the QEO was adopted, preventing interest arbitration in salary disputes in negotiations. In that 10 year period, in that school district, with 1700 teachers, the average teacher’s salary in the district declined by 14% as compared to inflation. That decline is reflected –the Department of Labor does a comparison –relying on AFT and NEA numbers- to determine what the average teacher’s salary is in each of the 50 states and you can rank all 50 states. The relative ranking of Wisconsin declined by more than 10 ranks. That trend has probably continued relatively unabated. Teachers salaries in Wisconsin will not compete with Minnesota, or Illinois, or for that matter in Michigan or Iowa.

Sly:                       Here’s the other thing to put in to the totality of this. I was in Lodi the other day where they’re laying off teachers, they’re going to privatize the custodial services. They used Walker’s tools. Those teachers have already taken probably a 15% pay cut. So, some of these teachers could end up taking a double whammy correct?

Tim Hawks:        Correct.

Sly:                       On top of falling behind over the last 10 years. How does this not affect the quality and the numbers of teachers wanting to go in to public schools?

Tim Hawks:        Absolutely, there will be school districts –here in the Milwaukee metropolitan area for example, the Shorewood school district, whose citizens believe there is a direct relationship between the quality of their schools and their residential real estate values, and accordingly will support and compete for it. There may be others in the community who are willing to do that. But there will be school districts, you mentioned one, I think, where the public policy will be to drive those costs down to the maximum extent possible. And I think in the core, in the urban centers, of our cities, the budget pressure is not going to permit an opportunity to compete. We are going to find ourselves just worsening the difference between the relatively property-poor school districts and the relatively property-rich school districts, a very bad result for public policy in Wisconsin.

Sly:                       By the way, the legislature abrogated their responsibility and gave the governor more power to be able to do things like this. This is something a new governor, without repealing Act 10, could un-do, correct?

Tim Hawks:        This is something a new governor could un-do, yes, that is correct.

Sly:                       Clearly, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel got the wage increase part right, the minimalizing the wage increase part, and what was negotiable for wage increases. They missed the base wage part. They’ve refused to correct the story. For some reason, the media in the state doesn’t think this is a big story.

Tim Hawks:        Your guess is as good as mine as to why that is the case. Sly, the problem is that this is complicated. It’s difficult to reduce it to three sentence statements that are readily understandable. You need to know how collective bargaining works and how this adversely affects it and that’s not easy stuff.

Sly:                       John Matthews mentioned to me the other day that there is not going to be enough money in this pool that school districts have to negotiate with to cover the cost of paying for teachers. Is that correct?

Tim Hawks:        That is absolutely correct. There will not be enough “total base wages” money to cover current salaries. In MTI’s case, it will be 10% light.

Sly:                       Ten percent?

Tim Hawks:        Ten percent.

Sly:                       And I don’t suppose anybody’s calculated what may happen per teacher in that situation.

Tim Hawks:        Right, I mean, we’re back to the point I made at the beginning of the program. It would be like any professional going to a prospective employer and saying, “this is what I propose for my salary, and the prospective employer saying, we’ll pay 90% of that and sort of figure out how we’re going to cover the last, at the end.”

Sly:                       We’ve all been wondering what was going to happen because we knew that with Scott Walker’s cuts to education that it was only going to get worse that some of the initial savings that he counted or some of the other sacrifices that teachers made would not make up for the cuts over the ensuing years. We know now, don’t we?

Tim Hawks:        I think something that also gets lost in this, is that this is a female dominated occupation. There’s approximately 90,000 teachers in Wisconsin, 70% of whom are female. This change, this revision on the WERC’s rule of base wages, affects almost only teachers, a female dominated classification. So, in terms of the adverse consequence on women, that aspect of this administration’s affect on policies, this is just another example of it.

Sly:                       Well, they certainly can’t sue for discrimination can they, at least for punitive damages. I’m not making fun of it. Sometimes, I just beat my head against the wall. It’s just such a travesty. Fighting Bob LaFollette is turning over in his grave, isn’t he?

Tim Hawks:        Indeed.

Sly:                       Well, thank you for explaining it to us. All the more reason to get out and vote on what we call “Cinco Goodbye-O Day” which is June 5th.

Tim Hawks:        Indeed. We celebrate that here in our firm.

Sly:                       Tim, thanks for coming on.

Tim Hawks:        Thank you. Good bye now.

Published

April 30, 2012 - 10:57am

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