Reviews | Scott Walker: Weakening Act 10 unions worked in Wisconsin

A social worker once came to my office with tears in her eyes, offering to reduce her salary to keep her new colleagues at work. Milwau...

A social worker once came to my office with tears in her eyes, offering to reduce her salary to keep her new colleagues at work. Milwaukee County, where I was the top leader at the time, was forced to lay off staff after drastic cuts in state aid to local governments and schools before I became governor of Wisconsin.

In the old collective bargaining system, which was based on seniority, last in is first out. Many of those facing layoffs were young and had families.

In order to avoid layoffs, we tried to be innovative and offered 35-hour work weeks, one per month for four months. I too would accept the pay cut. Union bosses, however, said no. I still remember that day.

Our reforms in Wisconsin – known as act 10 – changed that by eliminating all collective bargaining for government employees. This puts taxpayers and the officials they elect in charge of their state and local governments, instead of unelected union bureaucrats.

Now staffing and compensation can be determined by merit and performance. Schools can put the best teachers in the classroom and keep them there. Our reforms have also offered freedom of choice to workers. They can choose whether they want to be part of a union or not.

When a Democratic governor and Democrats in the state legislature cut funding to local governments in 2009 and 2010, school districts like Milwaukee were forced to fire teachers because the union contract left them with no another option. Our reforms changed that relationship and helped school districts save billions of dollars.

Prior to Bill 10, most employees in state school districts paid little or nothing for their health insurance and retirement. Now they pay something, although still a lot less than the average Wisconsin citizen. Previously, most school districts were required to provide health insurance from a plan affiliated with the teachers’ union. Now they can bid, and districts have saved millions of dollars – money that can go into the classroom.

Protesters claimed our reforms would hurt education, but the reforms we adopted ten years ago are still working. Wisconsin continues to have one of the highest high school graduation rate in the country, and our ACT scores continue to be among the highest among the states where every student takes the exam.

Taxpayers have also benefited from our reforms. Since 2011, their overall tax burden has decreased by over $ 13 billion. Property taxes and income taxes were lower when we left office than when we started, and we have eased the tax burden on two of the largest industries that employ people in our state: manufacturing and Agriculture.

Critics began to complain several years ago that good teachers were being recruited from larger school districts for more responsibility and higher pay. In 2018, however, I signed a initiative which has helped rural schools overcome challenges related to economies of scale and staffing. We also provided special assistance in our budget to districts like Milwaukee that had unique staffing needs. Most importantly, rewarding great teachers is a good thing.

An article in the August edition of the American Economic Journal examines the effects of our reforms that gave Wisconsin school districts complete autonomy to rethink teacher compensation. The paper shows that “The introduction of flexible remuneration increased the salaries of high-quality teachers, the quality of teachers improved (due to the arrival of high-quality teachers from other districts and increased efforts) and improvement student results. “

The Covid-19 pandemic crisis has revealed the hold many top government labor bosses have over their communities. Union officials and school administrators in Fairfax County, Virginia pushed for school district employees to skip the line for vaccinations this year, but refused to return to class until months later.

Even Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot acknowledged the damage to students – especially black and Hispanic children – who had not been to class for nearly a year. In February, she expressed her lingering frustration, saying, “We are letting these children down by not giving them the opportunity to go back to school. Failed grades. Depression. Insulation. And more.”

Sadly, union bosses have fought the mayor throughout the process, even though Roman Catholic schools in Chicago have been open since last fall. Cases like this suggest that more states and jurisdictions could use our reforms in common sense. If Chicago was in Wisconsin, school officials would determine if their school system was open and under what circumstances – not union bosses.

President Franklin Roosevelt has raised concerns about government unions, writing, “All government employees should understand that the collective bargaining process, as it is generally understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. Our only omission in Bill 10 was to exempt firefighters and police, but the failure of union leaders to allow teachers to return to school in Chicago confirmed our concern over a disaster for public safety if the same was happening in just one Wisconsin community during the debate over what is now Act 10.

Overall, our reforms have done more than just help schools and local governments. During my tenure, unemployment in Wisconsin has fallen lower than the previous record of 3% because more people were working than ever before. Median household income was on the rise, as were wages. We balanced the budget every year with a surplus, fully funded our pension system, and had a rainy day fund 190 times larger than when we started.

The real test of our reforms is that they are still working, a decade after they were passed. If conservative common sense ideas can work in a blue state like Wisconsin, they can work anywhere.

Scott Walker is the president of the Young America’s Foundation, a conservative student organization. He served as governor of Wisconsin from 2011 to 2019.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Reviews | Scott Walker: Weakening Act 10 unions worked in Wisconsin
Reviews | Scott Walker: Weakening Act 10 unions worked in Wisconsin
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