Wisconsin Budget Would Allow Collective Bargaining for Wages

By Dan Joseph | February 22, 2011 | 6:08 PM EST

Opponents of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's budget bill sleep in the rotunda of the Wisconsin State Capitol Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011. (AP Photo/Wisconsin State Journal, John Hart)

(CNSNews.com) - According to an analysis of Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed changes to his state’s collective bargaining rules by the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau (WLRB), state employees would maintain the ability to collectively bargain for wages as long as the union’s proposed wage increases are no greater than the annual change in the consumer price index (CPI).

Additionally, a greater increase could be obtained if approved by a referendum and passed by the voters of the state.

On its Web site, the WLRB explains the sections of the bill pertaining to the collective bargaining process.

“This bill limits the right to collectively bargain for all employees who are not public safety employees (general employees) to the subject of base wages,” states the WLRB.

“In addition, unless a referendum authorizes a greater increase, any general employee who is part of a collective bargaining unit is limited to bargaining over a percentage of total base wages increase that is no greater than the percentage change in the consumer price index,” the WLRB added. A “referendum” would require a statewide election.

According to its Web site, the WLRB “provides nonpartisan, professional, and confidential bill drafting, research and library services to the legislature and the public.”

In a letter to state employees, Walker explained the changes in similar terms as the WLRB, outlining additional changes to collective bargaining rules and touting the savings to the state budget that would come from the proposed changes.

“Contracts will be limited to one year and wages will be frozen until the new contract is settled,” wrote Walker. “Collective bargaining units will have to take annual votes to maintain certification as a union. Employers will be prohibited from collecting union dues and members of collective bargaining units will not be required to pay dues.

“These changes take effect upon the expiration of existing contracts. Local police and fire employees and State Patrol Troopers and Inspectors are exempted from these changes,” Walker added.

“Collectively, these changes will result in savings of approximately $30 million in the remaining few months of the current fiscal year,” said the governor.

Walker’s budget proposal has angered Wisconsin’s public employee unions, whose members have been protesting at the state capitol since Friday.

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