Under Act 10, public workers can’t negotiate health care benefits, work conditions, or really anything. The one thing they can “negotiate” is whether or not their wages will be adjusted for inflation.But, now we find that this was just the tip of the iceberg.The Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC) General Counsel Peter Davis has confirmed that a new rule recently approved by Governor Walker, together with Act 10, will prohibit school districts and other governmental bodies from including most so-called “add-ons” in the pay scales of new contracts. While years-of-experience add-ons largely will be preserved, additional education, advanced degrees and most other add-ons will be prohibited from being put in the contract.This will hit all public sector workers hard, but will teachers the hardest.
Davis agreed and said that a commonly used “guesstimate” for the effect of the changes was that about 30% of the wages actually paid to teachers would not be counted as part of the total wages.
Davis says that it is possible, however, for school districts to volunteer to give teachers bonuses for their additional education. This hypothetical make-up pay, to bring wages back up to their current level, would have to occur outside of a union contract. But, even this scenario is implausible considering that the budget will be worse this year than last year and the vast majority of school districts will not have any money left for bonuses after the contracts have been signed.
As an example of how this will play out, below is the pay scale for the Monticello School District’s teachers. Previously, the maximum a teacher could earn in the district was $52,927– which is what someone who has a Masters degree, 24 hours of college credit and 12 years of experience is paid. Under the new rule, the maximum a teacher will be able to earn in future contracts is $38,167, which is the maximum for a teacher that has the minimum educational requirements, but many years of experience.
While it is true that the Act 10 era will prohibit the inclusion of all add-ons in future contracts– including years of experience and additional education– everyone had reasonably presumed that the starting point for salaries in their first post-act 10 contracts… would be the actual salaries they had been earning, and that the Walker administration wouldn’t retroactively go back and eliminate previously earned salary components.
We all thought this, of course, because Walker himself has been emphatically downplaying his “reforms” as being “modest” and “only” effecting the “reasonable” cuts in the income public workers earn through their health care and other benefits.
Nobody in their wildest nightmare thought Act 10 was going to be this devastating to teachers and other public workers.
NOTE: This article was written based on direct confirmation from WERC General Counsel Peter Davis, who is top staffer at the agency that developed this rule. The Journal-Sentinel first reported on the issue a few days ago, but focused exclusively on cost of living increases no longer being allowed for education add-ons, (which is true), but missed the much larger story presented here.