The Great Wisconsin Union Debate

elvisFebruary 16, 2012

I'm not going to get carried away here; I've read the 2 lengthy threads dealing with this issue. Just a couple of facts to toss in, because I think I probably looked kind of like a goldfish, reading those threads (my mouth kept opening and closing).

Walker did say he intended to force the public employees to pay (personally, not as part of their wage package, via their employers) more toward their retirement benefits. Okay; times are tough, and I could suck that up.

The public employees in my bargaining unit did go to the bargaining table and offer to do just that--prior to the bill being introduced. The employer told us that they would not accept that concession because Walker was going to take care of it. Not real good for employer-employee good faith talks nor for anyone's morale.

Scary, really. We had a very cordial relationship; the government entity for which I work and us employees. We've been like a family, and this sudden change of attitude really hurt. Up here in the north, we don't make much money, but we're a tight knit community and we all get along and get by okay. Nobody's getting rich.

As part of the budget bill, Walker took $42 million out of our Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) Fund. All gone.

Most folks don't even know that.

There's not much complaining about the money we're paying out of each paycheck for health insurance and retirement. The biggest deal is the inability to bargain for ANYTHING except wages, as long as we don't get more than the current Consumer Price Index (which varies depending on who says what it is). So we opened bargaining, and asked for a wage increase, and they just said no. End of story. This is bad--we go through a lot of heating fuel up here, groceries aren't any cheaper, and we do have mortgages.

Can't help but think there's a lot of "Where's MY stuff?" "Why should they get more stuff then I do?" And like that. If you thnk about it, wanting to drag down folks who get benefits that you don't get in order to make us more "equal" is pretty socialist, right?

By the way, I voted for Walker and am deep in the throes of buyer's regret, as you can imagine. Talk about betrayal.

I don't know; there are many, many arguments here.

More later. What's the point of all this, anyway? More later, maybe.

We're taxpayers, too.

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tobr24u(z6 RI)

elvis, have you ever thought about a career change? Like singing?

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 6:36AM
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PRO
Brushworks Spectacular Finishes(5)

You think Walker may be bad? Wait until Rahm Emmanuel gets done busting unions and enhancing his friends in the 1% regime. Of course he's a member of the working family party so he gets a free pass.

and I'm not kidding!

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 7:29AM
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ohiomom

Brush none of them "get a pass" from me :)

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 8:18AM
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esh_ga

Of course he's a member of the working family party so he gets a free pass.

I don't know why you think that.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 9:15AM
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heri_cles

Wait until Rahm Emmanuel gets done busting unions and enhancing his friends in the 1% regime.

This must be the twentieth time you have repeated the Rahm Emmanuel is a union buster talking point, yet it is obvious that you don't understand the issues.
Unlike Walker, Emmanuel is attempting to work with Unions to address issues rather than seeking to destroy Unions, or to take Union busting across the country to benefit himself and the larger corporate GOP Union busting machine, like Walker has.
I and other Democrats are critical of Emmanuel because of the privatization of the public school system and I likely will not support him when he comes up for a primary challenge.
nonetheless, it is important that Foxboxes like yourself to understand the difference before parroting all the talking points that they have been fed.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 9:42AM
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esh_ga

I don't think that brush is a "fox box", but he does have a very cynical view that liberals embrace their own without criticism and even on this forum I don't find that to be true.

In fact I would offer that up as a "weakness" of liberals - they are soft-hearted and open to change and compromise when it appears to move towards the end objective. So they often give away the store only to find out later they were swindled!

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 9:46AM
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elvis

tobr24u, first off, good morning~~

just off topic for one tiny sec--thank you for the nice compliment on my prose!

Thank you; thank you very much...

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 10:33AM
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Lena M

@Elvis - Good to have your input.

@Brush - Rahm Emmanuel is more than a little OT for a Wisconsin thread.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 11:00AM
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maggie2094

Got your back, Elvis! Sending solidarity from New York! Did your union support Walker? (you mentioned you voted for him)

Not sure why WFP and Rahm Emmanual is being brought up in this thread. WFP is not a national party yet, had no idea they were on the ballot in Illinois but knew they had afflications in other states.

Why some feel the need to paint in such broad brushstrokes all the time instead of discussing issues at hand. Guess it strokes their ego. For the record I have never been a supporter of Emmanuel. Not ever. They should know that democrats have no problem critizng their own, unlike conservatives who must walk lock step all the time no matter the issue or incompetence before them. They don't seem to understand this.

As a member of the Working Familes Party in New YOrk, I am proud of what has been accomplished and continue to put my money and actions where my mouth is...including the WE Are one rallies organized by WFP in support of the workers in Wisconsin.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 11:05AM
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marshallz10(z9-10 CA)

Is there really a Workers Family Party, apart from a wing of the Dem. Party?

Why any union member would vote Republican in most States is a wonderment to me.Republicans have been waging a successful war against unionism for the last 100 years. Unionism is more than a struggle for more wages and in that process of seeking better job security and safety, many unions killed the golden moose. Perhaps guilt has driven union members to vote for their nemeses. Or perhaps there are not enough union members left to make a difference in most general elections.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 1:11PM
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fouquieria(10b)

Why some feel the need to paint in such broad brushstrokes all the time instead of discussing issues at hand.

Because it clouds the issue...and that's the whole point.

-Ron-

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 1:51PM
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ohiomom

Marshall 40% of public employees here in Ohio voted for Kasich ... and they had buyer's regret. Issue 2 went down in flames.

Go Wisconsin !

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 2:07PM
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maggie2094

Is there really a Workers Family Party, apart from a wing of the Dem. Party?

Yes and no. It is not part of the dem party, it is it's own party but they run mainstream mostly dem candidates in what they call fusion voting. They have a progressive message and platform and their feeling is this is a way to vote your values but not "spoil" an election. They have candidates of their own win in New York. If more and more people vote on the WFP line and dems don't hear the voices on progressive issues, then they run their own candidates. It is very much grassroots. Just my take on it. From them:

  • If we think that theres little difference between the two major party candidates, running our own candidate can send a powerful message to both the Democrats and the Republicans that working people cant be taken for granted.

In a town parade with huge turnout and strong political machines, the democrats marched, the republicans marched, and finally the Working Families Party. It sent a very powerful message and has had a big impact on local politics to straighten up and fly right.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 2:18PM
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maddie_athome

Howdy Elvis!

As part of the budget bill, Walker took $42 million out of our Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) Fund. All gone.

Most folks don't even know that.

I read about that. Does anyone have a link to the current budget bill (2012)? Does it mention the Wisconsin Retirement System?

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 2:46PM
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vgkg(Z-7)

Hi Elvis! (my fellow king, harhar :)
I'd love to hear your thoughts on something, I've been told that leading up to the election that Walker ran on curtailing the unions as one of his themes. I take it he did not from your comments above. Were there any TV commercials, debates, or interviews touting such promises? Just interested in the degree of honesty in our civic leaders. Hope it works out in your favor!
Thanks Elvis, sing on!

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 6:04PM
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PRO
Brushworks Spectacular Finishes(5)

So typical of the label man who makes empty accusations about who watches what or follows what. Shameful.

And I'm not defending Walker. Nor am I going to look away from the Democrats who are causing equal harm to unions and the middle class. And most of you do indeed paint that party with angel's wings, 99% of the time.

I'm not bought by any party and certainly not a follower just to "fit" in here.

Maggie, who are the working family candidates? Please name a few.

Mom, you're a smart woman.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 6:30PM
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dockside_gw

I've never liked Rahm, either. When Obama appointed him Chief of Staff, it validated my earlier beliefs that he was a corporatist. I'm glad he's gone from the Administration - not that things have really changed.

I read a lot of places that Walker DID NOT campaign on union issues, didn't even mention them. I'd like to know if someone can disprove that - with links to speeches, etc.

In this day and age, it is impossible for me to understand why anyone, who is not in th 1%, would vote Republican. I have voted for Republicans in the past, but the party has changed so much that there is no way in h* 1 1 that I would even consider it now.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 7:23PM
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maggie2094

Brushworks, not sure what angers you about WFP every time I mention it. You can feel free to check out their website for more info. I mentioned upthread about fusion voting and when they run their own strictly WFP candidates and what their philosophy is in this regard. I don't care if you support them or not but don't understand your condensation as if they have no weight or purpose, nothing could be further from the truth. I know the work they do and I am all about action, not talk about not supporting anybody and sitting on the sidelines because you might have to work within the system you despise for a while. That is how change is effected. So easy to sit on the sidelines and hate everyone and not participate. What an insult to our democracy and what soldiers think they are dying for...

Most of the time, the Working Families Party cross endorses Democrats or (occasionally) Republicans who promise to fight for issues that matter to working people. But we do run our own candidates, if we think we can win. Letitia James was elected to the New York City Council, Luci McKnight was elected to County Legislature in Albany, and Wayne Hall was elected mayor of Hempstead, Long Island, all solely on the WFP line.

So now you don't like Walker but your all for Kascich? Whats the dif...or no tell us again how you have no party but then get angry at WFP or OWS which are doing something different. Very contradictory.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 8:17PM
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marshallz10(z9-10 CA)

Whew! My head is spinning and my post-nasal drip is finding something allergic in this thread. Why ask if Walker during campaigning spoke about doing in the unions. React to what he has done, with the assistance of Republican-dominated legislature. If a Democrat and Democrat-dominated legislature rammed though force union rules on all employees in the State, can you imagine the uproar from the peanut gallery.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 8:38PM
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elvis

vgkg--yes, Walker did state during his campaign that he intended to curtail public employees' wages and benefits in order to help with the deficit without new taxes. I figured I could live with that, to help out. Walker did NOT say he intended to raid the WRS (Wisconsin Retirement Fund).

I know, it sounds dumb to be willing to accept less than one currently has. So I'm naive and hopeful.

Now Walker is doing a study to determine whether he should dissolve the WRS and change it into IRA's. We all know that is a really bad idea. This is why many are taking early retirement. Some of us have been paying into the WRS for a very long time, to the exclusion of other retirement plans.

You see, that 5.8% has always been a major part of our wages. We've been lucky to get 2% for the last several years, which doesn't take care of inflation, so we've been going the wrong direction anyway. This talk of taking this irresistably fat and juicy fund is making a lot of public employees very uneasy, me included.

Also, Walker did not speak to his intent to "union bust" by taking away our ability to bargain. That's very harsh.

I'll wait and see what you all do with this.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 8:41PM
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vgkg(Z-7)

Thanks Elvis, Thank you very muchhhhh.
Marshall, a curious mind wants to know the truth about this dude, wish I could do something about Walker but can't vote in WI :)...but that being said do vote out dishonest creeps in my state government that are the same...and on balance that's remains to be the GOP as they have mastered the art of deception far better than the demos.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 11:26PM
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Lena M

This is from a PDF by the Wisconsin AFL-CIO. It does not included the giveaway of our State Commerce Dept., the cronyism jobs, the Walkergate scandal, or the latest bills not yet passed (ending wetland protection, allowing mining with no restrictions, and the removal of protection from employment discrimination).

Losses to Working Families Under Governor Walker (update Feb 13, 2012)

Loss of Fundamental Freedoms
-- Loss of the Freedom to Bargain Collectively
-- Barriers to Voting

Loss of Family-Sustaining Jobs
-- Job Loss Continues
-- Rejection of $810 Million in Federal Rail Funds
-- Private Sector Jobs Lost from Attack on Unions and Cuts to State Budget
-- Eliminating Support for Jobs Related to Energy Conservation
-- Apprenticeship Opportunities Limited
-- Governor Supports Unfair International Trade Agreements That Send More Jobs Overseas

Loss of Employment Protections & Benefits
-- New Waiting Period for Unemployment Insurance
-- Child Labor Exploitation
-- Denying Workers Paid Sick Days

Transfer of More Wealth to the 1%
-- Massive new tax breaks for corporations and wealthy investors passed since January 2011 will cause an additional loss
of nearly $2.4 billion in revenue to state government over the next 10 years
-- Re-opening the Las Vegas Corporate Tax Loophole will cost taxpayers $46.4 million in fiscal years 2011-13 alone
-- Breaks for Wealthy Investors will cost taxpayers $36.3 million in fiscal years 2011-13 alone
another new capital gains tax break will cost taxpayers $79 million (This break does not require any job to be created or retained)
-- Manufacturer & Agribusiness Income Tax Phased Out, represents a loss to taxpayers of $360 million over the years 2012-2017 and will cost $128.7 million each year after that
-- Tax Break for Junk Mail be a loss to taxpayers of $500,000 per year

Taxes Increased on Low-Income Wisconsinites
-- Earned Income Tax Credit
-- Homestead Tax Credit

Loss of Quality Public Education
-- Extreme Cuts in Funding of Public Schools
-- More Taxpayer Funding of Private Schools.
-- 30% Cut in Aid for Wisconsin Technical College System.
-- UW System Cut
-- Access to Education under Wisconsin Covenant Program

Loss to Local Communities
-- Funds Cut to Communities
-- Regional Transit Authorities
-- Transportation
-- Recycling

Loss of Health Care Coverage
-- BadgerCare & Medicaid
-- Family Care
-- Women's Health Care
-- Federal Health Care Funds Rejected

Loss of Citizen Access to the Courts
-- Victims of Corporate Negligence Denied Their Day in Court

Loss of Honest, Clean and Open Government
-- Integrity of Civil Service System Eroded
-- Sweeping Authority to Cut Health Benefits.
-- Governor to Determine Implementation of Laws
-- Government for Sale. The availability of public financing for qualified candidates for State Supreme Court, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, State Treasurer, Secretary of State, Superintendent of Public Instruction, State Senate and State Assembly has been repealed.
-- New Legislative Districts Rigged to Elect Republicans
-- Governor Grabs Settlement Funds Meant for Homeowners

Here is a link that might be useful: Download PDF

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 8:43AM
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maddie_athome

Now Walker is doing a study to determine whether he should dissolve the WRS and change it into IRA's. We all know that is a really bad idea. This is why many are taking early retirement. Some of us have been paying into the WRS for a very long time, to the exclusion of other retirement plans.

This is why the collective bargaining rights have to go--paving the way to loot Wisconsin's Retirement System. You can kiss your money goodbye.

Then there's this:

Feds reject Walker request for waiver from health insurance mandate:

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services today rejected a waiver requested by the Walker administration that would have allowed Wisconsin insurance companies to keep more than 20 percent of their premium dollars for profits and overhead.

The request for a waiver from the Medical Loss Ratio requirement under President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act was made in October by the Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's administration.

The Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance requested an adjustment of the medical loss ratio (MLR) standard to 71 percent, 74 percent, and 77 percent, for reporting years 2011, 2012, and 2013, respectively.

However, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services rejected the Wisconsin application for a waiver today.

How many children lost their healthcare again?

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 1:28PM
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Lena M

The WI GOTP just killed equal pay protection.

SB202 passed - taking out Equal Pay Act

Our Wetlands lost protection as well. "Realtors, builders and property rights advocates pushed for the legislation, saying that current law hamstrings development. The aim, they said, was to balance environmental interests and the rights of property owners. But groups such as the Wisconsin Wetlands Association and Trout Unlimited said the changes leaned too heavily toward allowing wetland destruction and would cause long-term harm in many locales.

"In a statement, Walker said he looked forward to signing the wetlands bill."

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 9:43PM
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elvis

I know; he's just despicable. Trust me; as a card-carrying member of AFSCME, I know.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 10:05PM
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jmc01

Can anyone explain to me why, when we were driving pretty extensively through south central WI last weekend, we saw 1 "recall walker" sign and hundreds of "I support gov walker" signs? yes, I do mean 1 and hundreds.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 6:14AM
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Lena M

As one of the best pension funds in the world, the Wisconsin Retirement System:

-- Has almost $80 billion in assets

-- Has over 572,000 participants

-- Serves approximately 20% of Wisconsinites

-- Is the ninth largest pension fund in country, and thirtieth largest in world

-- Has been ridiculously well-managed. It is one of only 4 pension funds in the country that meet strict criteria for being classified as fully funded. There is no unfunded liability in this system, meaning taxpayers are not on the hook to make up a shortfall. This is in stark contrast to pension funds in other states which have been intentionally and recklessly underfunded over the course of years.

In the midst of the destruction that was Walker's budget, there was also the little tidbit about the "study" of the Wisconsin Retirement System, the pension fund for Wisconsin's public employees. This study was originally part of Act 10, the infamous budget repair bill, but was taken out of that legislation by necessity when the collective bargaining portion of the bill was jammed through the Wisconsin Senate in the dark of night. It didn't take long for Sen. Darling and Rep. Vos to bring this study back via the biennial budget.

...Rep. Vos happens to be the current Wisconsin chair of the American Legislative Exchange Coucil (ALEC). ... one of the areas of ALEC's model legislation deals with turning pension funds into defined contribution plans, commonly known as the 401K.

...what was actually in the WRS study included in Wisconsin's last budget? Well, Representative (ALEC) Vos mandated that the study had to address the issue of establishing a defined contribution plan for public employees participating in WRS. That means employees invest a certain amount of money, presumably with our good friends from the financial sector that so recently tanked our economy, with no guarantees of principle protection, let alone a rate of return or benefit payout. Basically, the employees take their retirement to the casino that is our current stock market and let the chips fall where they may.

The second issue dictated by the study was to let employees completely opt out of WRS. Forget retirement security at all.
So if the Wisconsin Retirement System is fully funded, and is one of the strongest pension funds in the country, why would Walker and his cronies attempt to "fix" what isn't broken? [FOLLOW THE MONEY in] ...Walker's gubernatorial campaign. In Scott Walker's 2010 campaign for Governor, he received almost a million dollars from the financial and banking sector. $958,414 to be exact. To these people, and the groups like ALEC that represent them, the WRS is a cash cow that they would love to sink their talons into.

PLAN OF ATTACK..

Well, there are several tactics they will employ to sway public opinion. These tactics will be wrapped up in the glossy, polished media messages that only big money can buy. Ads will flood our television channels, and talking points will be faithfully hammered, at a fevered pitch, by conservative talk radio.

Walker will first try to convince Wisconsinites that the WRS is in trouble. The statistics regarding WRS discussed above show this is an astronomical lie. Along those lines, Walker will try to convince people that the taxpayers of Wisconsin are funding this pension, and will also be on the hook for even more money due to the fund being in "crisis." Again, more lies. Don't take my word for it: Forbes magazine, not commonly known as a liberal rag, ran a fantastic story recently called "The Wisconsin Lie Exposed-Taxpayers Actually Contribute Nothing to Public Employee Pensions." This article should be required reading for everyone participating in this debate.

Another tactic, already employed in the collective bargaining debate in this state, is to divide Wisconsin's workers and fuel anger at public employees. When people are hurting, they look for someone to blame, and Walker has done a masterful job at turning working people against each other. Read my post "Compassion Lost" to see how the right wing in this country has exploited this pain. They have fostered an attitude of "every man for himself" when it comes to survival in our society. However, it actually goes farther than that. They have created an attitude of "if I am hurting, I want my neighbor to hurt too." That is a shockingly un-American value, and is not the sense of community that made our nation great.

It is also a terrible misplacement of anger. Teachers, nurses, firefighters, police officers, and snow plow drivers had nothing to do with the collapse of our economy in 2008. The rich have become extraordinarily more wealthy over the past three decades, and it is truly at the point where our nation consists of "those that have everything" and the rest of us. The wealthy interests in the financial sector created a house of cards for their own enrichment, and walked away with all of the money when that house collapsed. To add insult to injury, we even bailed them out for their trouble.

Finally, Walker and his cronies will tout the "freedom" of employees to do what they want with their money. Just understand that this freedom is strikingly similar to the freedom Paul Ryan intended to give seniors by providing them with $6,000 vouchers instead of actual Medicare.

Make no mistake about it: the first dominos are being lined up in Wisconsin to destabilize WRS. The study included in the last budget was the first step. Wisconsin Assembly Bill 539 is the next step.

Here is a link that might be useful: SOURCE FOR THIS POST

    Bookmark   February 23, 2012 at 11:38PM
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Lena M

On February 12, 2012, Representative Strachota, a Republican from West Bend, introduced AB 539. This bill would allow newly hired employees in the University of Wisconsin system to "opt out" of the Wisconsin Retirement System and to participate in a privately-managed defined contribution plan. AB 539 is clearly designed to get a foot in the door when it comes to privatizing WRS and ultimately weakening the fund. It is similar to the union busting of Act 10: if you can starve the unions financially, they will cease to exist as meaningful entities. If you let people opt out of WRS, you can starve the fund to the point where it cannot effectively complete its mission.

I recently came across a video clip where Scott Walker was talking to an interviewer on the Daily Caller about legacy costs. Let me be as blunt as possible: the term "legacy costs" is one of those great Republican euphemisms.

"Legacy costs" means pensions, the things working class people rely on to survive when they get old. To the far right, pensions are a nuisance that need to be eliminated, so they are called "legacy costs" to conjure all the negative associations that term brings to mind. The term is similar to the euphemism "reform," which, in Republican parlance, means to slash the h**l out of some program that benefits working or poor people. Governor Walker had this to say about "legacy costs:"

"I think any of us who are honest understand if you don't get legacy costs under control, it's a virus that will eat up and eat up and eat up more and more of your budget. It's the same problem that Chrysler and GM got into, and state and local governments have to fix it."

Read the statistics I provided about WRS, and then look at the above narrative again. It is direct evidence of Walker's plan to make the public believe that the Wisconsin Retirement System fund is somehow in trouble, and that the tax payers will be forced to bail it out sometime in the near future. There is no other way to characterize this narrative than a monstrous lie.
Wisconsinites need to be extremely vigilant in their defense of the Wisconsin Retirement System. It remains the one area relatively unmarred by the Walker administration, and it is in the interest of all our citizens to keep it that way. However, we also must understand, in no uncertain terms, that the enemy is already at the gates with respect to the integrity and security of the Wisconsin Retirement System.

Here is a link that might be useful: SOURCE FOR THIS POST

    Bookmark   February 23, 2012 at 11:43PM
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elvis

It's a very big honey pot, lenam, and Walker wants it BAD. It's all about taking our retirement money. Some of us are still paying union dues and plotting, but many are just trudging along like sheep, feeling grateful for their jobs.

It's pretty bad, but we will eventually rise again.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2012 at 11:47PM
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marshallz10(z9-10 CA)

I am truly dismayed at these events. I only taught in the UW system for two years but recall how solid the pension system seemed to be in the eyes of staff and faculty.

The choice offered now is a job paying reduced wages and benefits now or a decent pension in retirement. Take away the solid pension plan and extend the dreadful choices.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2012 at 10:44AM
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Lena M

The Truth about WRS: What's at Risk
Posted by SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin on March 1, 2012

'Last Friday, the Walker Administration sent an email to state employees in response to increasing concerns about an effort by Republican leaders to weaken the highly-regarded and financially stable Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) and do away with traditional public employee pensions.

'The email appears to be intended to calm fears about the Administration's intentions. Don't fall for it! No one should consider this email as a sign that things are all right as far as the WRS and your pension are concerned. The email message should be treated as a 'red alert' to anyone who has a stake in the WRS or who cares about retirement security for all working people.

'The Walker email acknowledges that the WRS is strong and financially sound. It also acknowledges that no one has the authority to modify already-earned benefits. However, the email is silent on the future of the WRS and pensions of current employees. This is what's at risk! Letis examine the record and statements made by Walker officials to understand the struggle ahead...

'To be clear: some Republicans are gearing up to make changes to the pension system that will destabilize it and threaten worker retirement security. This is not idle talk or hyperbole. Here are the facts:

'...ALEC and a Wisconsin-based conservative group, the Wisconsin Public Policy Research Institute (WPRI), are working to dismantle public employee pensions and privatize pension systems around the nation and here in Wisconsin.

'Two years ago, the WPRI issued a report on the WRS, stating that it has 'clearly overstayed its welcome', is 'far out of the mainstream' and urged Wisconsin's next governor to 'bring radical reform' to the WRS.

'It didn't take Walker long to carry out the first stage of 'radical reform' that the WPRI advocated. The most obvious first strike against workers came in Act 10 which, among other things, requires all current WRS employee participants to pay for the current annual costs of their pensions (known as the 'employee-required pension contribution').

'The second stage of 'radical reform' is the little-known, five-year vesting requirement for newly-hired state workers contained in in the last budget (Act 32). In practical terms, this means that someone who has been making pension copayments and who leaves state service before the five-year mark will not be part of the system. The new vesting rule is important in the context of the next phase of radical reform that the Walker Administration may drop on working people soon, if they get their way.

'The third stage of 'radical reform' is in the works in the form of a study of the WRS that Walker pushed through as part of his budget. The study must address: (a) establishing a defined contribution --that is, a 401-K style plan- for employees; and (b) giving employees the right to decide not to pay (that is, to 'opt out' of paying) the employee-required pension payment mandated under Act 10.

[ . . . ]

'Allowing workers to 'opt out' of paying the employee-required contribution will destabilize the WRS and will harm retirement security of current employees. The strength of the WRS is dependent on the participation of all workers in the system. If workers are allowed to opt out of the WRS, this decision will ultimately destabilize the entire system as well as the retirement security of WRS members.

'Think of the WRS as brick wall - strong and solid - with 572,000 bricks, one representing every active and inactive member as well as retirees. Any time a public employee would choose to 'opt out' of the retirement system, it'll be like removing a single brick from the wall. At first, maybe only handful of workers will remove their bricks, and that won't make a big difference to the structural soundness of the wall. But, over time, more chucks of the wall will be removed, and some workers may feel they have no choice but to 'remove their brick' from the wall. The 'wall' inevitably comes crashing down, and by then, it will be too late to fix it. Walker and his right wing allies will have destroyed the WRS without using an obvious wrecking ball, and thousands of people will face uncertainty in their golden years."

Here is a link that might be useful: Source

    Bookmark   March 3, 2012 at 10:00AM
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Lena M

A sad anniversary in Wisconsin today - on March 9, 2011 the GOTP violated the open meetings law to ram through their evil bill.

Here is a heart-stopping single minute of video of the Wisconsin Republicans breaking our open meetings law. You can hear the chants of "Shame! Shame! Shame!" from the capitol rotunda outside the chambers.

There will be candlelight vigils around Wisconsin tonight, and a rally tomorrow at the capitol.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 10:50AM
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marshallz10(z9-10 CA)

Time for general strikes. Unfortunately, there are so few unionists left and oh so many who would rather have a job now than longer term security that a strike would be hard to sustain. Does the new law ban strikes, criminalizing such action?

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 11:15AM
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Lena M

March 9/10, 2011 we were very close to a general strike. I believe it was only averted because Wisconsinites have the option of recalling their politicians, and diverted their energy into that.

Today, I was at the capitol with 60,000+ surrounding the square - one year later.

Here is a link that might be useful: More photos here

    Bookmark   March 10, 2012 at 4:43PM
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Lena M

Monday, March 12, 2012

Judge grants injunction halting enforcement of voter ID law

"A Dane County judge today granted a permanent injunction preventing enforcement of the state's voter ID law, ruling the Legislature and guv exceeded their authority in enacting the requirement.

"Judge Richard Niess noted in his eight-page ruling the state Constitution guarantees every resident 18 or older the right to vote and only allows the government to exclude those who have been convicted of a felony and have not had their rights restored or judged incompetent.

""The government may not disqualify an elector who possesses those qualifications on the grounds that the voter does not satisfy additional statutorily-created qualifications not contained in Article III, such as a photo ID," Niess wrote."

Source

[Wisconsin] GAB to seek shorter extension that could put recall general election June 5

"The GAB today approved a shorter extension than what the staff had originally sought to finish its review of recall petitions against Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.

"The agency expects to go to court Wednesday to seek an extension to March 30 to finish its review. If granted, any primaries would be held May 8 with a general election to follow June 5.

"The staff's original suggestion could have resulted in a primary May 15 and a general election June 12."

Source

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 2:54PM
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