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I'm a proud retiree member of the Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals.  Our first Wisconsin local in Racine, Wisconsin has just completed negotiation of their first contract under Scott Walkers odious Act 10 (the public employee union busting law) and the consequences have been horrible.  Their contract is one page long and, in accordance with Act 10, only covers base wages (not annual wage step increases, longevity wage increases, just the lowest base wage).  And those base wages may not exceed the amount the state itself determines which are:

1/1/2011 – 0.97%
7/1/2011 – 1.64%
1/1/2012 - 2.01%
7/1/2012 – 2.65%

Those are the maximum amounts and counties and municipalities are under no requirement to offer or settle for the maximum amount.  Racine County settled their contract at 2%.  

Their old contract, negotiated over 30 years, covered things like vacation selection, seniority, shift selection, scheduling, working conditions, health and safety issues, disciplinary actions, representation, and grievances.  It doesn't exist anymore.  It can't exist under Act 10.  

Those things can't be bargained for and nurses have no voice and no representation in the workplace anymore under Act 10.  Employees can now be assigned however the manager wants with their favorite employees getting the choicest vacation weeks, work days, and shifts.  Fall out of favor with the boss and you can find yourself working night shift and every weekend for the rest of your work life and your union can't do a thing about it.  

Additionally, the nurses are now considered "at will" employees which means they can be discharged or disciplined for little or no reason (most contracts specify the employer have "just cause" for discipline or discharge and that the employee union may provide representation at disciplinary or discharge meetings and hearings).  So, suck up to the boss, don't complain and you'll probably keep your job.

Despite representing Registered Nurses in Racine County for 30 years, they have been without a union contract since January 1, 2011, and, in accordance with Act 10, had to "recertify" as a union before they could even request contract negotiations.  The recertification process is the same one that creates a brand new union in a workplace, difficult as that is.  They will need to "recertify" with this same process every year under Act 10.  Fortunately, the union won the recertification vote and began to bargain their first contract.

They'll have to do it all over again next year for a couple more nickels in the wage rate.  

The most devastating effects of this, unless it's struck down by the courts or repealed by the state government, won't be felt for a few years when public employee wages, held to minimal increases by state edict, fall well below private sector wages which are free to fluctuate with supply and demand.  Find yourself unable to hire qualified people to fill your positions in the private sector and wages go up to make positions more attractive.  That won't happen in the public sector where wages will stagnate.

Of course this is in total complaince with Republican plans for privatizing all government services.  They can't do it currently because private companies not only charge for the costs of providing the service, but a healthy profit margin for the private corporation and high executive salaries, as well.  

No local government is going to pay more "to go private" than they're already paying to provide the service with their own workers.  However, devastate a public service by making the jobs so terrible and low paying that no one wants them and ..... problem solved.  The local government will be forced to bring in the private sector no matter what the cost to the taxpayers.

As time goes on more of my fellow nurses and fellow public employees will be brutalized by this new law.  My own local and a few others were able to successfully extend their current contract until the end of this year by giving massive concessions to their local governmental bodies, but if Act 10 isn't repealed, they will face the same fate as our Racine County brothers and sisters.

This same scenario is playing out with all public employees in Wisconsin.

Scott Walker has been at war with public employees for a long time.  He's extracted his many pounds of flesh from Milwaukee County public employees during his reign of terror as Milwaukee County Executive, but now he's spreading the pain throughout Wisconsin.  On June 5 he, his Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, and 4 Republican State Senators have to be recalled and replaced with people who will work to restore our right, restore our state, and restore sanity in our state government.

In solidarity, my brothers and sisters, I feel your pain.

Originally posted to Puddytat on Sun May 13, 2012 at 12:11 PM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and Badger State Progressive.

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