Walker: Didn't follow the old employee bargaining law, and so far isn't following his new law. | WisCommunity

Walker: Didn't follow the old employee bargaining law, and so far isn't following his new law.

[img_assist|nid=58034|title=Outrageous|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=200|height=256]When you read about some horrendous new decision from the Walker administration,  never overlook the disturbing likelihood that  there sometimes is even more awful stuff going on behind the scenes -- or, in some  cases, nothing going on when it should be. For example:

On Monday, two state employee unions, the  State Professional Education and Information Council and the Wisconsin State Attorneys  Association, filed unfair labor practice complaints with the Wisconsin Employment  Relations Commission (WERC).

The complaint in each case: Gov. Scott Walker has failed to bargain with the unions since he took office 14 months ago -- both before and after he got the Republican-dominated legislature to gut collective bargaining with most public employees, local and state.

Walker's signature measure all but ending meaningful collective bargaining finally was enacted late in June 2011 after court challenges. Since then, say the two unions, the Walker administration has not responded to their repeated requests  for a  bargaining date, even though they succeeded in elections to certify their bargaining status.

Furthermore, Walker didn't even bother to bargain with those and other unions before his new law took effect. Which, on the face of  it, was illegal. After all, you can't go out and commit a  murder, and then expect to avoid arrest on the basis that you planned to change the law against  murder later on. But that in effect is what Walker presumed with respect to his new law mandating collective bargaining:  He apparently expected he would at some point be successful in tearing up  the existing law, so he pretended he could safely ignore it from Day One of his administration.

Not surprisng, really. Walker pulled similar stunts against represented public employees when he was Milwaukee County executive.

The two unions filing complaints this week are among a handful among the 18 state public employee unions that actually retained the right to collectively bargain. To do it, those unions jumped a very high  barrier set in Walker's new law and, in the first of a series of expensive annual elections newly required by the state, got an absolute majority of all their members to agree that the unions should continue to represent them in bargaining.

But here we are, coming up on a year since  the new law was enacted, and so far there's  been no new bargaining at all. And the Walker administration shows no signs of being in any rush to do something about it. Hence the filings with WERC.
The excuse from state employment relations officials is that WERC still needs to  complete a rule-making process in which a formula is defined to establish what base  wages are subject to collective bargaining.

Until WERC gets around to doing that,  there'll be no bargaining, according to  Walker's Office of State Employee Relations, which is now run by an ex-firefighter, who  used to run the Milwaukee firefighters union, whose members thanks to Walker don't have to put up with all this nonsense, since firefighters and police throughout the state were exempted.

Under Walker's new law -- 2011 Act 10 -- other public employee unions must win the right to continue  to bargain each year, and then can only negotiate over wages, and  even then are limited to a maximum increase no greater than that of inflation. That, of course, amounts to working very hard just to stay in place, since an inflation-adjusted salary  would at best only have the same buying  power.

You'd think that coming up with a wage  formula to enable bargaining wouldn't be very hard. But so far, it's taken WERC nearly a year and counting. A time during which state employee wages actually went down twice --  once by Act 10 and once through Walker's  "compensation plan," which more accurately would be called a de-compensation plan.

Indeed, some represented state workers haven't seen a labor contract in literally years. Jim Doyle's administration wasn't fast or forthcoming, either, but at least it got  the job done.

When after months and years of  bargaining, Gov. Doyle's employee relations  office hammered out tentative agreements with a number of state unions that hadn't seen new  contracts in many months, Governor-Elect Walker promptly managed to convince the lame-duck legislature not to approve the deals.

He did that by getting one Democratic senator to vote Walker's way (that  legislator, Jeff Plale, later became an  administrator in the Walker administration).  Walker's justification? "We're broke!" Although, later, he admitted to Congress the union-busting law wouldn't save any money.

But now, according to "Good" Walker (who disappears every now and then in place of  "Evil" Walker who thinks otherwise), the budget is sort of, kind of balanced. So why not start following his very own law and get started again on collective bargaining? Because figuring out how to calculate wages is too hard? Well, that didn't stop Walker from crafting his de-compensation  plan.

Other state unions are expected to join the two that already have filed complaints with WERC. We should say here for the record that, historically, WERC has been a reasonably  professional organization, but under Walker's reforms it is likely to become more partisan as Walker's appointees to the commission began to hold sway. And WERC is now the arbitration agency of last resort. The new collective bargaining law does away long-standing procedure under which contested cases could be moved a step higher to an independent arbitrator.

Note, too, what we said about Walker not bargaining for five months before Act 10 was signed into  law. That on its face would seem to violate Wisconsin's then-existent public collective bargaining law, which required good-faith efforts to bargain and timely responses.

However, Walker must have learned politics by watching North Carolina college basketball. Famed coach Dean Smith used to employ a "four corners" offense in which his players would vastly slow down the game, playing keep-away in order to protect a lead. Collegiate athletics banned that tactic, and presumably at some point the courts will deprive Walker of his own brand of stalling to protect his lead over public employees.

Meanwhile, Walker and his lieutenants  continue his four-corner stall against represented employees who are diligently trying to follow the rules. After creating those rules, Walker himself still doesn't. Right now he's holding the ball and trying to prevent the opposition from scoring. But sooner or later, a referee is going to whistle a foul on him for delay of game.


March 21, 2012 - 3:43pm