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Wisconsin’s Budget Repair Legislation’s Potential Impact on Collective Bargaining

Employment law as it pertains to public employees in Wisconsin is set to undergo a significant transformation if and when the state Senate passes Governor Scott Walker’s controversial Budget Repair Bill. The specifics of the legislation were made public in early February, with the Assembly approving the bill on February 25. It remains unclear when the proposed law will be subject to a vote in the Senate.

voice.jpgNo matter which side of the aisle one sits, it is indisputable that the proposed legislation is poised to drastically alter how public sector unions function. Employers impacted by the potential changes will be need time to adjust their practices to adapt to a new employment law landscape, though certain portions of the legislation would necessitate almost immediate changes for public sector unions and their membership.

The Governor maintains that the bill offers the only hope of preventing significant pubic employee layoffs resulting from the state’s growing financial instability. While Mr. Walker has provided a great deal of information intended to support his party’s position on the proposed legislation, opponents and public sector union s have disputed the bill’s necessity and have organized large-scale demonstrations at the capitol over the past few weeks. The Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC) estimates that upwards of 200,000 individuals represented by 2,000 collective bargaining units in Wisconsin could be affected.

Among the possible change for public employees (with the exception of some public safety personnel) are:

Limitations on collective bargaining, including a prohibition on bargaining over issues not under the umbrella of the Wisconsin Municipal Employment Relations Act would be enacted. Preliminary certification elections would occur in April 2011 to decide if bargaining unit members desire continued union representation, or else face decertification. Union contracts would be limited in duration, dues could no longer be required for union membership, and collection of dues through salary deduction would become illegal.

Covered employees would pay one-half of retirement contributions as prescribed by the Employee Trust Fund Board, and it would no longer be permissible for most public sector employers to make employee-required contributions on their behalf.

Employer categories affected by the legislation would no longer be permitted to pay greater than 88 percent of the average cost of group insurance plans falling into the cheapest employee premium tier.

The employers specified in the law would be permitted to fire public sector employees taking part in strikes, work stoppages or other organized protests, or those missing work without prior authorization for a period exceeding three days.

Because of the substantial potential changes embodied in the proposed legislation, public sector employers are well advised to monitor developments in the capitol as they continue to unfold.

If you are a California school administrator with a question about school district related employment law, student/teacher safety, special education, accommodations, student rights, free speech or discipline, feel free to call attorney Richard Oppenheim at 818-461-8500. There is never a charge for an initial consultation and we can help you choose the best direction to resolve any school district employment law issue.