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Interesting Times in Wisconsin..........
Old 02-23-2011, 10:22 AM   #1
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Interesting Times in Wisconsin..........

As a lot of you guys know, I live in Wisconsin, near Milwaukee, so I am only about 70 miles from "Ground Zero" in the whole union/CBA debate.

Usually most other states laugh at Wisconsin and some of our bungling ways, but now the bright lights of media are firmly upon us.

I can see both points to the debate. My parents are both retired state employees who are thankful for their pensions and benefits, and generally support unions. However, as both have said repeatedly over the years, they KNEW their benefits package was better than almost anyone else. They never picketed, protested, etc. They just went to work and taught students. My dad and mom never complained about low pay or poor work environment.

I have not been to the Capitol to protest and have no intention to. I do find it interesting that now that the union bosses see that Walker is serious, they are offering to give concessions on the bill. That is an incredible turnabout from just two years ago, when a Democratic controlled legislature and a Democratic Governor passed a large spending bill that increased spending by roughly $1 billion. There was nary a protest or whining, since the bill was passed in the dead of night, around 2:30am or something........... There was no call from Republican constituents to dicsuss the bill, "slow down" the process, etc. The Republican senators were not happy but did not flee the state.

I am not sure that collective bargaining is the REAL issue. Wisconsin has LONG been a haven for public employee unions. IIRC we have the highest per capita number of retired state employees in the US. The promises that were made over the years are unsustainable.

If there is an impasse, about 6,000 state workers will lose their jobs by the end of summer. It is NOT as easy as "just lose the CBA in the bill, and we will do whatever you want". The unions are PISSED that the Republcians not only won the governorship, but control the legislature. They got whatever they wanted from the last admininstration, but that's a whole different story..........
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Old 02-23-2011, 10:29 AM   #2
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Nope, did not know you were there...


I agree that what is being proposed is what needs to happen... but I would also do it with police and firefighters... from the news reports it seems these groups were left out because they endorsed the gov during the election....


This reminds me when Dems from Texas left when they were pushing through redistricting back in the 90s... the gov sent the Texas Rangers out to find them and bring them back... I do not know if they did bring anybody back this way...
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Old 02-23-2011, 10:32 AM   #3
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I agree that what is being proposed is what needs to happen... but I would also do it with police and firefighters... from the news reports it seems these groups were left out because they endorsed the gov during the election....
Yes and no. FOUR unions supported Walker, out of the 100 or so unions for those groups. yet another tidy fact the media has chosen to ignore.............
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Old 02-23-2011, 10:45 AM   #4
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I am definitely watching the outcome of what happens in Wisconsin as are all the state leaders nationwide. Don't know a lot about the internal workings of unions but seems reasonable that promises made are not sustainable. It was mentioned on the news that the collective bargaining piece is a fiscal consideration..(because it was called into question)....in that...union employees can move to the state health care system rather than the one offered by the union...and save something like 65 million. Is this your understanding?
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Old 02-23-2011, 10:53 AM   #5
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FinanceDude, when a turmoil such as this surfaces, all kinds of numbers are thrown around. The one I heard the other day is that the average school teacher in Wisconsin makes $89000 per year. If it's true, that number is a really high salary compared to the rest of the country. And for nine months work. My brother, once a teacher, always said the three good things about teaching are June, July and August. Your thoughts on the teacher salaries?
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Old 02-23-2011, 11:15 AM   #6
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And all this time I thought we were Keynesians, afraid to death of deflation or turning into Greece. Where the heck is Helicopter Ben to save the day?
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Old 02-23-2011, 11:39 AM   #7
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Johnnie36...Looks like starting is $25,222 and average is $46,390.

Some may be paid as much as the $89,000 but I bet it is for the ones that have been teaching for 25 plus years...maybe?

Link: teacherportal.com/salary/Wisconsin-teacher-salary
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Old 02-23-2011, 11:48 AM   #8
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Johnnie36...Looks like starting is $25,222 and average is $46,390.

Some may be paid as much as the $89,000 but I bet it is for the ones that have been teaching for 25 plus years...maybe?

Link: teacherportal.com/salary/Wisconsin-teacher-salary
Have not looked... but could it be salary and benefits

If they paid nothing for healthcare and pensions then that could be a pretty number added on top of the avg $46K salary...
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Old 02-23-2011, 12:07 PM   #9
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I think the middle class is being hit with a lot of divide and conquer from powerful, moneyed corporate elite. It serves them well so we don't all turn on them.

I've long said that I'd rather see the private sector middle class dream restored than to see the public sector taken down. But for this to happen, the private sector needs help, especially if the Wisconsin unions (and other unions and govvies) want the support of the rest of the working class. Many of us are non-union and in right to work states. If we try to protest the wage cuts/freezes and benefit takeaways we've endured for a long time, we're fired (and I don't mean FIRE'd unless we're already financially secure).

I want to support "the deal" for public employees but we can't do it unless the rest of the middle class starts reversing their downward trend. And just as public unions want our support here, we need their support in advocating the halting of the erosion of the private sector employment deal. It's the only way we can continue to afford it, and perhaps the best way to gain support. Human nature is that we won't begrudge other people the "deal" we're paying for if we're getting a comparable deal ourselves. And no one is in better position to provide advocacy than the unions and govvies themselves, especially when their right to organize and advocate won't be met with a pink slip.

There's a good reason why the private sector middle class isn't in a giving mood, but the tearing down of the last organized interests of middle class workers may not be wise or helpful for *any* of us. The question, then, becomes one of figuring out a way to solidify the overall clout of the middle class worker -- public AND private sector, union AND non-union. In a post-Citizens United world this kind of unity is going to be critical if we don't want to continue down the road of government by, of and for the corporation.
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Old 02-23-2011, 12:47 PM   #10
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Have not looked... but could it be salary and benefits

If they paid nothing for healthcare and pensions then that could be a pretty number added on top of the avg $46K salary...
The best analogy I have is my daughter who is a first year teacher here in Virginia. Other localites and states may do it differently. For her with a starting salary of close to $40,000, $110.00 a month is deducted from her pay for her group health insurance. The school district currently pays the 5% into the Virginia Retirement System for her which is $2,000.
I'd have to look at the school budget to determine total district cost for these 2 items.
I don't really know any teachers (k-12) making $80,000 plus. I do know..principles and other administrators can make this. Superintendents salaries are out of the roof. Some make over $250,000 a year. Don't know enough about the job to know if it is excessive compensation.
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Old 02-23-2011, 12:55 PM   #11
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FinanceDude, when a turmoil such as this surfaces, all kinds of numbers are thrown around. The one I heard the other day is that the average school teacher in Wisconsin makes $89000 per year. If it's true, that number is a really high salary compared to the rest of the country. And for nine months work. My brother, once a teacher, always said the three good things about teaching are June, July and August. Your thoughts on the teacher salaries?
That $89,000 includes benefits and salaries. The healthcare is roughly $22,000 of the $89,000, the salary is about $52,000 of the $89,000, and the rest is pension contributions. In our local school district, the teachers pay $50 a month for family healthcare, no matter how many are on it. Trouble is, if you are a WEAC member (union), you HAVE to buy your health insurance from the WEAC Health Insurance Trust(nice scam), who charges the taxpayers an average of $22,000 a year for each teacher, single or not,even if they could get a plan with the same coverages elsewhere, it's kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy, and WEAC's health care plan is the most expensive state employee plan in Wisconsin. So a LOT more than just collective bargaining considerations......

If you want to elevate your pay as a teacher, you need a master's degree. If you want to get into administration, you need at least a master's degree, but most superintendents have a doctorate in education. I don't know the current max pension, but both my parents got 80% of the average of their highest 5 year compensation in their tenure. So a teacher making $60,000 their last 5 years, and with 30 years in, got $48,000 a year plus health benefits to age 65, and could retire as young as 53 or so......

In Wisconsin, state law dictates that students mus receive 180 days of instruction each year. At 5 days a week, that is 36 weeks of school. So, I think teacher salaries are fair, not out of line.

Growing up with two parents as teachers, I saw the hard work AND also the nice perks like summers off and school breaks and things. One nice thing was the school district where my mom worked allowed her to get all her pay during the school year, or get paychecks throughout the summer. I think that policy is gone now.........Most teachers I know are good workers, and they are trying to make a difference in their student's lives. Some are burned out, and are waiting until they qualify for the max pension and bennies (30 years in Wisconsin)

I guess I have a better understanding of both sides of the equation than most..........
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Old 02-23-2011, 01:17 PM   #12
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That $89,000 includes benefits and salaries. The healthcare is roughly $22,000 of the $89,000, the salary is about $52,000 of the $89,000, and the rest is pension contributions. So a LOT more than just collective bargaining considerations......

In Wisconsin, state law dictates that students mus receive 180 days of instruction each year. At 5 days a week, that is 36 weeks of school. So, I think teacher salaries are fair, not out of line.
Financedude.

I also agree teacher salaries are fair. Most work hard and work longer hours during the school months than perceived. But WOW...look at those health care and pension contributions....it looks like 71% of salary. The salary of 52,000 is about what I would have expected. Now you have me curious. I wonder if benefits for all states are running at that percentage.
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Old 02-23-2011, 01:27 PM   #13
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Here is the part of the bill that appears to be fueling the protests:

Collective bargaining – The bill would make various changes to limit collective bargaining for most public employees to wages. Total wage increases could not exceed a cap based on the consumer price index (CPI) unless approved by referendum. Contracts would be limited to one year and wages would be frozen until the new contract is settled. Collective bargaining units are required to take annual votes to maintain certification as a union. Employers would be prohibited from collecting union dues and members of collective bargaining units would not be required to pay dues. These changes take effect upon the expiration of existing contracts. Local law enforcement and fire employees, and state troopers and inspectors would be exempt from these changes.

I think the requirement that folks are not required to pay union dues via payroll deduction is what the union leadership is most upset about. If 40% of their members decide NOT to write a seperate check for union dues, they would lose a lot of their power and money to run political ads, etc.

How much collective bargaining power do private unions have? Ask anyone at Harley Davidson! The answer is not much at all.

The public unions will not go down without a fight. The unions want the leverage to keep their cadillac healthcare plans and generous pensions, and who can blame them? However, those promises were easier kept when the state was running a surplus in these accounts 20 years ago or so. Also, those same unions have been defiant when asked in the past for wage concessions, paying more for their healthcare, etc. Wonder what the protests will be when Walker has to lay off 6000 or so of them by late summer?
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Old 02-23-2011, 01:51 PM   #14
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I think the middle class is being hit with a lot of divide and conquer from powerful, moneyed corporate elite. It serves them well so we don't all turn on them.

I've long said that I'd rather see the private sector middle class dream restored than to see the public sector taken down...
+1
I don't think what's happening in Wisconsin bodes well for a new virtuous cycle beginning. I thought we were trying to put money into peoples pockets, not take it out. True, the gov't is probably not the best one to make those types of decisions, but we've relied on them for so long, there may not be an alternative.
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Old 02-23-2011, 01:59 PM   #15
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I don't think what's happening in Wisconsin bodes well for a new virtuous cycle beginning. I thought we were trying to put money into peoples pockets, not take it out.
Yes, but that oversimplifies the debate, I think. Because the feeling is that if we *do* let all the money (or CBA rights, even) stay in the hands of Wisconsin state employees, that it will come out of the pockets of Wisconsin taxpayers who don't directly benefit from it.

In other words, it's seen as a zero-sum game: One side's "victory" is the other side's loss, whether in the form of reduced wages/bennies or higher taxes. Divide and conquer strategies usually do couch a debate in zero sum terms so there must be a "winner" and a "loser".

There is **some** truth to that in the current melee, but it's still short-sighted. In the end, if we want to see the erosion of the middle class stop, the middle class needs to stop attacking itself even as companies with record profits pay out record executive bonuses as they lay off workers, send some to India and slash pay and benefits for the grunts in the trenches.

If we can reverse that trend, it will be a lot easier to support the employment deal and economic security unions and govvies have enjoyed for decades. But we need the unions and govvies to realize we need their help getting there, especially we non-union private sector grunts in right-to-work states. We advocate and organize at our own peril. I see it as a call to "help us help you," really.
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Old 02-23-2011, 02:06 PM   #16
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Financedude.

I also agree teacher salaries are fair. Most work hard and work longer hours during the school months than perceived. But WOW...look at those health care and pension contributions....it looks like 71% of salary. The salary of 52,000 is about what I would have expected. Now you have me curious. I wonder if benefits for all states are running at that percentage.
Teacher pensions across the nation are as varied as the weather. For example, Missouri, 30 years will get you 75% of your highest 3 year ave. 14.5% is taken out of your paycheck for retirement (matched by school). NO health insurance benefit after retirement. You can ,however, pay the full rack rate of the group premium and stay on until 65 (I chose to buy in individual market as it was cheaper for me). Dont pay into social security and the WEP will catch double dippers in SS.
Texas I believe is a hybrid pension/social security, meaning teachers pay into both and get both. Contribution rates are lower and so is pension, but they also get full soc. security.
As far as salaries go which effect your pension, they are all over the map. For example, where Im from you could have a specialist degreed person with 25 years making close to 75-80K, but 30 miles away the same person would make about 55k. I have a friend who has taught over 30 years and is still under 40K! Generalizations are real hard to make with ones own state in addition to nationwide generalizations.
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Old 02-23-2011, 02:09 PM   #17
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I think the middle class is being hit with a lot of divide and conquer from powerful, moneyed corporate elite. It serves them well so we don't all turn on them.

I've long said that I'd rather see the private sector middle class dream restored than to see the public sector taken down. But for this to happen, the private sector needs help, especially if the Wisconsin unions (and other unions and govvies) want the support of the rest of the working class. Many of us are non-union and in right to work states. If we try to protest the wage cuts/freezes and benefit takeaways we've endured for a long time, we're fired (and I don't mean FIRE'd unless we're already financially secure).

I want to support "the deal" for public employees but we can't do it unless the rest of the middle class starts reversing their downward trend. And just as public unions want our support here, we need their support in advocating the halting of the erosion of the private sector employment deal. It's the only way we can continue to afford it, and perhaps the best way to gain support. Human nature is that we won't begrudge other people the "deal" we're paying for if we're getting a comparable deal ourselves. And no one is in better position to provide advocacy than the unions and govvies themselves, especially when their right to organize and advocate won't be met with a pink slip.

There's a good reason why the private sector middle class isn't in a giving mood, but the tearing down of the last organized interests of middle class workers may not be wise or helpful for *any* of us. The question, then, becomes one of figuring out a way to solidify the overall clout of the middle class worker -- public AND private sector, union AND non-union. In a post-Citizens United world this kind of unity is going to be critical if we don't want to continue down the road of government by, of and for the corporation.

Ziggy.... I do not have much complaint about teachers salaries... from what I read either here in Texas or up there.... if you annualize the salary of a teacher that makes $42K, then you have a comparable salary of over $50K... teachers have the ability to do a second job over the summer... (not that many do, just saying they have the ability)...

I also am not impressed with the argument of how hard they work... I worked hard when I was young... when I did taxes during tax season I regularly put in 80 hour weeks and had a good number of 100 hour weeks... I have never heard of any teacher putting in 80 hours per week...

The problem is the size of thier benefits.. a 70% or so cost of benefits is high compared to most corps who have between 18% and 22%... heck, even if it is 35% it is high...


I agree with your post about not tearing down each other.... the problem is that we are now more in a global economy and the big megas can move jobs anywhere they want... when I did a cost study for programmers in India, it was hard to convince someone that paying $10K a year was not the way to go compared to $140K in New York....

The game has changed... everybody is going to be changed by the game...
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Old 02-23-2011, 02:16 PM   #18
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I agree with your post about not tearing down each other.... the problem is that we are now more in a global economy and the big megas can move jobs anywhere they want... when I did a cost study for programmers in India, it was hard to convince someone that paying $10K a year was not the way to go compared to $140K in New York....
It is true that the "global economy" has changed some of the rules. But it hasn't seemed to affect all nations equally. Germany, for example, isn't having a jobs/budget crisis to the same extent of many other developed, high-wage nations. Why aren't all the good jobs leaving Germany like other nations? And they have more protectionist laws and employer mandates than we do.

One can't go completely protectionist, but I do think there is room for *some* labor law that uses both carrots and sticks to create and keep the jobs here. Saying it's impossible because of the "global economy" is a cop-out, IMO. Yes, it is a complicating factor, but it can't be the excuse to give corporations free rein to behave badly in their home countries.
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Old 02-23-2011, 02:21 PM   #19
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It is true that the "global economy" has changed some of the rules. But it hasn't seemed to affect all nations equally. Germany, for example, isn't having a jobs/budget crisis to the same extent of many other developed, high-wage nations. Why aren't all the good jobs leaving Germany like other nations? And they have more protectionist laws and employer mandates than we do.

One can't go completely protectionist, but I do think there is room for *some* labor law that uses both carrots and sticks to create and keep the jobs here. Saying it's impossible because of the "global economy" is a cop-out, IMO. Yes, it is a complicating factor, but it can't be the excuse to give corporations free rein to behave badly in their home countries.
Good point! I havent heard about India's and asian CEO's pay causing big CEO's in USA to substantially cut their salaries or perks to stay globally competitive! (Or maybe I just dont know what the hell I'm talking about and should shut up)
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I havent heard about India's and asian CEO's pay causing big CEO's in USA to substantially cut their salaries or perks to stay globally competitive!
Well, that's different...

Let's see: put up with a class full of brats, and their equally bratty parents; grade 40 or 80 or 120 tests, at night, at home, on my own time; buy class materials, with my own money; compete for the attention of kids inundated with TV, internet, video games, sext messages, sports, celebrities...

Dang, where do I sign? Sounds like such a deal...
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