Love was not in the air this Valentine’s Day; picket signs were raised all over Wisconsin as opposition to Governor Scott Walker’s plan to fix Wisconsin’s $137 million deficit continued.
In fact, Walker’s proposition has elicited so much outrage that the National Guard has been notified of the Madison rioting. They are prepared to take whatever action they are instructed to, whether it is controlling crowds or guarding the prison if the guards strike.
Earlier this year, Scott Walker’s campaign included “Recruiting, Retraining and Rewarding Great Teachers” for Wisconsin schools. If by rewarding educators he meant stripping their benefits and rights, then Walker is well on his way to success.
Walker proposes to cut collective bargaining for public workers. Under both the Municipal Employment and Relations Act and the State Employment Relations Act, municipal and state employees are entitled to negotiate wages, hours and work conditions with their employers. These acts protect worker rights that were established during the Progressive Era. With Walker’s proposal to strip down collective bargaining, many feel as though Wisconsin is moving backwards.
In addition, some of the outrage has been generated by Walker’s proposition to make state workers contribute to 5.8% of their pensions, which is estimated to generate $30 million in revenue. State employees would be forced to pay 12% of their health care premiums. Regardless of salary differences, everyone will be forced to pay the same price for health care coverage.
If passed, the legislation is estimated to affect over 175,000 state employees, effecting prison workers, construction workers, nurses and teachers to name just a few.
Along with educators across the state, the University of Wisconsin-Parkside’s staff is very concerned; if the budget passes, UW-Parkside professors will expect to see a take home pay reduction by about 10-15%. The UW-Parkside staff faculty members gathered in a lecture hall Tuesday evening to discuss the budget, its ramifications and possible solutions.
Provost Terry Brown led the meeting, expressing her gratitude to the staff for all of their dedication to the University and the students. Dr. Peggy James facilitated the discussion. The meeting focused on three major areas: how to come up with resolutions, how to implement solutions and how to break union worker stereotypes.
The faculty and staff unanimously supported a document that disagreed with Scott Walker’s proposed actions, adding a clause that stated “Future estimates that an 8% reduction in the salaries of state employees would remove over $60 million from the local economies, the repercussions of which would further lower tax rates and worsen budgets.”
Many of the faculty members expressed interest in changing the negative connotation that society has made with union workers. They feel as though they have been wrongly targeted as lazy and undeserving of their benefits.
“We work for our pensions, they are not free,” said one professor. “We are taxpayers too,”
Along with union connotations comes the historically used idea of union strikes. Although none of the UW-Parkside faculty showed interest in striking, strikes, teach-ins and even teach-outs were discussed at the meeting. While all of the staff members in attendance were bothered by Walker’s budget, there seemed to be a unified dedication to the institution and students.
“My concern is not for this week, but next week; I do not want this to be another California situation, where one day, everyone walks out and it makes national news, and the next day, Justin Bieber gets a haircut and no one gives a shit anymore. What do we do without collective bargaining? To what extent is there backing to resistance? Sure, it is nice to go to Madison and yell, but as a University and a faculty, how are we going to show solidarity?” asked English chair Jay McRoy.
One of the most profound statements made at the evening’s meeting came from Sociology Professor Paul Aceto.
“You cannot raise three kids on $13 an hour,” said Aceto, triggering the faculty into applause.
The faculty agrees; although Walker and other individuals think that professors are making over 70,000 annually, they are entirely mislead. While “elitists”, or a small group of technical college and large university professors, have higher salaries, professors at Parkside struggle to support their families under current conditions. Dean Yohnk commented on the amount of eligible and deserving candidates who turn down jobs at Parkside because their salaries average 10-20% less than those at comparable universities. Scott Walker’s seemingly invincible proposal headlining newspapers is turning candidates away as well.
“We have only filled six of the 17 open staff positions. We lose candidates every day,” said Yohnk.
With a decrease in teaching staff and pay, schools and the quality of education across the state will surely suffer. All state workers and students will be directly affected by this budget; therefore, students who oppose the current budget need to increase awareness and help the efforts as well.
“The students will be held hostage; they are the ones directly impacted.” said psychology professor Ed Conrad.
The faculty could not stress the importance of spreading student awareness enough. While some of the meeting’s attendees felt that the budget was a guaranteed defeat, others remained hopeful and believed that increasing awareness and contacting state legislatures could still help.
Wisconsin residents and constituents are encouraged to keep themselves and others informed of the state happenings. By contacting state legislatures, they can make an impact in the political process that will virtually affect everyone.
To voice your opinion regarding Scott Walker’s agenda and preserve worker rights and the value of education, please visit http://legis.wisconsin.gov/w3asp/waml/waml.aspx.
Remember, your legislatures are here to serve you and the well being of the state.