The Progressive: Walker Rule Sets Base Wage So Low It Makes Wage "Bargaining" Impossible For Teachers and Other Public Workers | WisCommunity

The Progressive: Walker Rule Sets Base Wage So Low It Makes Wage "Bargaining" Impossible For Teachers and Other Public Workers

[img_assist|nid=194632|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=232|height=300]Many have tried to explain why the new Walker rule gives school districts the "tool" to cut teacher salaries by up to 30% if they want or need to make such a cut.  And many, including myself, could have done a better job explaining the numerous interlocking cogs that make this happen.

just did a pretty good job laying it out, explaining the good faith elements in play and why school districts no longer have to worry about violating them: 

Interest arbitration became a statutory part of the collective bargaining process for public employees in 1978. It was enacted as a way to avoid lengthy, contentious contract negotiations and strikes, and it encouraged both sides to compromise and to make reasonable final proposals. If negotiations came to an impasse, an independent arbitrator had the power to decide which side’s offer was most legitimate, given comparable salaries, history, market conditions and budget constraints. Arbitration served as a check on the abuse of power.

According to Katy Lounsbury, attorney for AFSCME Council 40, the loss of interest arbitration under Act 10 “makes collective bargaining a sham.” She explained: “At the end of the day, when one party has 100% of the power to institute their offer, there is no real bargaining.”

Even so, before the new administrative rule defining base wages was in effect, unions still could have brought a complaint against employers for not bargaining in good faith if the employer proposed outrageous pay cuts. But the new rule sets the ceiling so low on base wages that employers can now claim they’re bargaining in good faith even while low-balling workers. “You can’t accuse employers of bargaining in bad faith if they’re giving employees everything they’re permitted to give,” said Lounsbury.

Not only does Act 10 restrict collective bargaining to base wage cost of living increases, it actually prohibits unions from bargaining with employers on any other subject. Even if an employer wanted to add the salary steps for higher education credentials and credits back into the employment contract, they are legally forbidden to do so. Whatever “incentive pay” or “educational wage credit” employers wish to offer must be set out in policy as supplemental to base wages. It is totally discretionary, and therefore not subject to legal action by workers or their union.

In other words, under Walker's new Act 10 implementation rule, a school district could announce that they have constructed a teacher salary contract that pays teachers the maximum salary and gives them the maximum cost of living raise and that, on top of all that, they are giving the teachers a $2,000 bonus outside of the union contract and it would still result in a devastating cut in pay. 

Why? Because a school district is legally only able to put "base wages" into a contract and "base wages" can't include the 30% of the average teacher income that comes from so-called education add-ons.  So, as long as the school district doesn't cut more than approximately more than 30% of their salaries, they could honestly make the statement that they "put the maximum allowable into the teacher salary contract under act, gave them a cost of living increase and gave them a $2,000 bonus outside of the contract."  Which of course, sounds pretty good to the public, but in reality would result in deep cuts for the teachers in question.

This is all, of course, in stark contrast to the narrative being presented by Walker and ehoed by the state media that workers "can still negotiated over their base wages." Nothing could be further from the truth. 


May 2, 2012 - 11:43am