Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Walker's Crown Jewel Is Flawed

As Scott Walker has abdicated his role as governor in order to become a professional campaigner, he has traveled around the country bragging about his Act 10, the right to work legislation that he launched almost immediately in 2011. Walker likes to tell folks that he was big and bold as he took on those eeeeeeeeevvvvvvvvviiiiiilllll unions and saved taxpayers over $3 billion.

Well, he didn't really take on the unions. He boldly ran away and refused to even talk to the unions, like a cowardly bully that finds himself outnumbered and outmaneuvered.

One would be hard pressed to find anything near the tax savings that Walker has claimed. Over the four years Walker has been in office, he's saved taxpayers only a few bucks. This false claim is made worse when one considers that many Wisconsinites saw a hefty drop in their property values, some as high as What Walker did do was take $3 billion out of the economy and gave it to his wealth campaign donors.

But there is another unintended consequence from Walker's Act 10 that hasn't been widely reported. Not only has Act 10 severely cut the take home pay of public sector workers, but it has opened the door to nepotism, cronyism, waste, fraud and corruption.

Last year, Lisa Kaiser of the Shepherd Express reported about the income maintenance program in Milwaukee County, which became a personal employment office for its administration:
State employees are speaking out about promotions and bonuses given to relatives of managers within the State Department of Health Services (DHS) Milwaukee Enrollment Services (MilES), headquartered at the Coggs Human Services Center on Vliet Street.
A handful of managers’ relatives with less than two years of experience were promoted over colleagues with up to 14 years of experience.

Those same favored employees were among those who received a $2,500 windfall last week, when DHS awarded roughly 900 employees $2.5 million in bonuses at managers’ discretion.

Vanessa Robertson, chief operations officer of DHS at the Coggs Center, refused to answer the Shepherd’s questions about the allegations last week.

Robertson’s son, Gavin, was among those who received the $2,500 bonus. He was hired in May 2012 and was promoted in April 2013 over employees with more seniority, earning $4.65 more per hour as a result.

David Eisner, a contract administrator for District Council 48, is representing four employees who have filed six appeals with the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC) over the questionable promotions.

Eisner charged that it takes at least two years for an employee to become proficient and a one-year employee such as the COO’s son should not have been promoted in April.

“This is flat-out nepotism,” Eisner said.

While the passed-over employees can appeal the unfair promotions to the WERC, they have no way to appeal the bonuses.

“And if you’re not the boss’s buddy, you’re not going to get a bonus,” Eisner said.
I pointed out other problems with the program:
I would also add that another predictable result of Act 10 and the ensuing corruption is that this program is seeing a higher rate of turnover than ever before. When this program used to be run by Milwaukee County, even under Walker, the turnover rate wasn't that high. Now, since Act 10, they seem to be in a constant state of hiring and training new employees.

With the cost of going through the screening process and the training of so many people, I find it highly unlikely that the state is actually seeing any savings from Act 10.

I would also mention that the Walker appointee to run this program, Ed Kamin, has other problems besides, and possibly partially because of, the rampant nepotism and cronyism - such as violating a number of federal laws and wrongfully denying applicants (most commonly non-English speaking) their due benefits.
Kaiser has done a follow up report on the issue and found that matters have only gotten worse. Not only is the nepotism, cronyism and corruption as rampant as ever, but the workers that blew the whistle on these issues have been bullied and intimidated by management.

And it is not confined to this one program. The abuse of power is happening across the state:
The MilES office allegations didn’t surprise Marty Beil, executive director of AFSCME District Council 24. He said there’s been a huge change in workplace culture at state worksites since Act 10’s implementation.

“Every state work site is a cesspool,” Beil told the Shepherd. “I’m not being facetious here. Workers are concerned with money and benefits but what has been happening at the worksites, the culture that has been established, has been more disruptive than these workers not receiving adequate pay increases.”

Beil said bullying and intimidation are rampant throughout state agencies. He said supervisors try to bully and harass outspoken workers so that they’ll quit or ultimately be fired. Worksites are short staffed, leading to high amounts of overtime and threats to privatize operations, he said.

“It’s like somebody switched a switch in 2011 and these supervisors and administrators all became ogres,” Beil said.

Also common is the lowering of qualifications for professional jobs, Beil said. For example, the Milwaukee Bureau of Child Welfare, run by the state since 2002, has faced complaints about its handling of suspected cases of child abuse and high staff turnover. In response, it’s changed its hiring requirements for those who take initial assessments of child abuse. Previously, access and initial assessment specialists were required to be social workers. Now, those with a high school diploma can be considered for the job.

“What message does that send to the rest of the workers who have master’s degrees there?” Beil said. “And who’s going to get blamed when a person who has a high school diploma makes a wrong decision about suspected child abuse?”
Not reported in the article is the fact that this abuse and exploitation of the system is happening at all level of government.

In the city of Oak Creek, the school board nearly fired a teacher based on hearsay. Milwaukee County Execute Chris Abele tried to steal the pensions of hundreds of retirees so that he could give the money to his fellow millionaires. The list goes on and on.

When Walker bragged about "dropping a bomb" on the state with Act 10, he wasn't just talking euphemistically.


  1. Take a page from the Madison School District, currently in violation of Act 10. (I have brought suit.) Voters just approved a $41 million spending referendum after the school board raised its local property tax rate 5.4%. Now the Madison Metro School District says it needs to cut $10.8 million to cover the deficit. This is after rewarding its unionized teachers and support staff with a 2.5% pay increase in the budget approved late last year. The cuts will require eliminating 110 positions, mostly teachers. How does this help minority achievement? The school board rushed to ratify union contracts four years ago while protesters were still camping overnight in the State Capitol. The district scheduled a special meeting on a Saturday morning with only the minimally required public notice. The public was not allowed to speak.

    1. Dave, you're being less than honest, which, frankly, is not surprising. Over 70 referendums appeared on the spring ballot asking for an increase in tax money because of the failings of Walker's agenda. Many of them were approved.

      Also, many school districts are being forced to again cut staff due to the Draconian budget cuts in state funding. How is that serving any students?

      And you are not allowed to complain about the way the district handled their business when you approved it when Republicans set the state to ruin. Why, that would make you a hypocrite.

      And speaking of hypocrisy, have you turned down and paid back your pension yet?

    2. 1. you filing a frivolous lawsuit to try and grab some Bradley money does NOT make Madison in violation of ACT10. Unless your daddy just got elected to the school board, like happened in Kenosha, your chances of winning are not very good.

      All you are really doing is stealing money from the kids to makea stupid political point. Yet that is not the least bit surprising.

      @. How does this help minority achievement? thats simple by RETAINING employees. (first off your rant about the raises in MMSD are fantasy). Do you have any idea how to help minority achievement? I know you dont care but maybe you could do some of that research.

      Check the achievement levels of states with the strongest teachers unions v states that have the weaker ones.

      To think teachers should not have a voice at the table in what goes on in their workplace is just ignorant or the facts and data and logic.

      Finally, and its amazing how much you can get wrong in just one paragraph, but it was not a $41 million dollar spending referendum it was a $41 million dollar building referendum. In what world do you live in that older building do not need repair? Do you think that minority achievement flourishes when schools are over capacity? how about if the buildings heating/cooling do not work very well? Just curious.

      WHat happened to you as a child that you are so full of hate and to make your point your so full of BS?

    3. Blaska, you get an "F" for your math, or are you lying and is discipline in order?

      The raise was: pay increase of 0.25 percent to secure the only teachers contract in the state for the 2015-16 school year,

      Read more:

    4. Are you that gullible or is remedial education in order? As the WI State Journal explained 6-5-2015, the 0.25% is only the overall increase in the base rate; each teacher gets automatic longevity raises averaging between 2% and 3%, according to the district.

      "Add that to the 0.25 percent and the real raise for most Madison teachers will be about 10 times more than advertised."

    5. EACH teacher Dave? would you like to correct that to include the facts?

    6. Seems like act 10 reduced the average state employee's wages through increased payments to WRS by around 5.4% for some people, and closer to 7 % for others who aren't teachers. Don't you think, little Davey, that a 2.5% smaller shit sandwich (for the lucky ones who get merit raises for their experience, extra work or extra education) still a shit sandwich?

    7. "EACH teacher Dave? would you like to correct that to include the facts?"

      On average, yes. Not new hires, no. But returning teachers, yes.

    8. How do you guys who want to run everyones lives, have so little clue on how life works? Lane steps are when you reach longevity goals, not every year. No teacher gets a 2-3% raise a year.

      Also to you and the brainiacs on the WSJ editorial board, when you pick up extra responsibilities you get paid extra for extra work. Its not a raise.

  2. Wisconsin is in ruins? You're thinking of Illinois, where the unions still run the state. As for dishonesty, some facts are in order: the State of Wisconsin is providing $4.48 billion in general aid to schools for the 2014-'15 school year, a 2.1% increase from last year. I support the local spending referendum mechanism; democracy in action. Do you?

    1. Gee, yet Wisconsin leads in losing the middle class, not Illinois. Wisconsin lags behind Illinois in job creation, wages, property values and almost every other major economic factor. I'd say the unions were doing a good job, despite their governor's best efforts.

      Don't you find it kind of sad that people are forced to vote to save their children's schools? That shows just how bad your boy wonder is failing at his job.

    2. Unemployment: WI 4.6%; Illinois 5.0%
      Graduation rate: WI 2nd; Illinois 22nd in nation
      ACT scores: WI 17; Illinois 32 in nation
      Income growth: WI 24th; Illinois 39th
      Violent crime: WI 16th safest; Illinois 32nd
      Population growth: WI 39; Illinois 45
      Taxes: WI 12th highest; Illinois 6th
      United Health Foundation rankings of general health: WI 23; Illinois 30
      Livability, as judged by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index WIS 16; Illinois 28

    3. What is your source for these numbers? Anyone can make stuff up or use a partisan source to support their opinion.


  3. Marty Beil was spot-on in describing what it's like working for Walker. No raises, increased expenses for pension and health insurance, onerous policies, along with an uncertain future is resulting in employees (old, in the middle of their careers, or brand new) hitting the exit at an alarming rate.
    While, political types like Mr. Blaska rejoice in Act 10, people are discovering that they don't very much like working under these conditions. If it gets much worse, Walker very well just might need to get his National Guardsmen ready for some state service.

    1. Is that the same Marty Beil who wouldn't settle a contract with Jim Doyle?

    2. What would Marty Beil have gained for his members by settling a contract with Jim Doyle over continuing on under the old contract, and why are so many new employees deciding that working for the state isn't for them?

    3. Me,for one, but never mind that now. So, Blaska...why are you such a shriveled angry old man? Better yet, how do increased teacher/student ratios benefit the minorities you pretend to love, when you're not trashing them on your idiotic blog? Also...I kind of feel like your little icon there might be a tad racist.... Or maybe it's ok, since I sort of imagine the ethnic stereotype you fit as that of a fat old ex mobster in a track suit with a old dull icepick in one pocket (if you get my meaning) and a bottle of nitro in the other. Seems like you might even be one Gino's Italian beef away from the big one...personally, i'd stay away from tomato gardening and avoid so getting so angry at the younger fit people who teach our kids for peanuts.

    4. Wisconsin 6th best state for teachers; Illinois 22nd

    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    6. Its funny that you used the link that ranked WI 6th because they spend the first 6 paragraphs railing on how poorly we treat our teachers...wonder what they would think about your frivolous lawsuit.

  4. Sarge- WHAAAA-ska is doing what he's paid to do, like the prideless wingnut welfare case that he is.

    And he's trying to distract from the lies and failures that Act 10 and Walker's school cuts clearly have resulted in. Shoot, even Walker now is running away from his own K-12 cuts, because it is such a loser

  5. In life we are able to make choices, do we stand for the truth or do we stand for lies. Mr. Blaska where do you choose to stand?
    You claim a long career as a reporter, you blog, and you participate on statewide radio programs as a political commentator, but are you curious enough to research a situation in order to learn if a story is truthful; even if the story goes against the political positions that you hold?

    1. says the guy who claimed Madison teachers got only a 0.25% pay raise.

  6. The raise amount you stated in your first post in this thread appeared incorrect. I looked it up and found that the raise was 0.25% for all, but the article didn't mention a longevity raise for those that qualified, so I was misinformed. However, not all the teachers received the longevity 2.5% raise, a blanket statement either way would be inaccurate.

    I'm a state employee, and I'm writing about what I see. State employees were limited to CPI for raises by Act 10, and received a 2% raise over two years in the last budget (after many years without a raise and a reduction in pay due to Act 10 requiring increased amounts to be paid into the retirement fund and for health insurance amounting to about 10%).

    Since 2011 the annual average percentage change in CPI is 9.95%. Now, Walker's current budget proposal has no money for state employee raises. One of the reasons my co-workers are quitting is to take better paying jobs, after seeing their earnings move backward about 18% or more.

    Act 10 was adversarial, and people are finding that it creates work conditions they don't want to be in. Bottom line is the republicans running the show have problems, and they will have to rethink their approach if they want to make any improvement.

  7. Not all teachers received a 2.5% raise; some received 3.0%. The average is 2.5%

    You write: "Since 2011 the annual average percentage change in the CPI is 9.95%"?

    Are you kidding!? Does that even smell right? That's Jimmy Carter-level inflation! Since 2010 the average increase in the CPI is 2.1%. Look it up: (page 71).

    I'm beginning to think you might be over paid.

    1. Speaking of overpaid, when are you going to pay back your union won pension? David. Since you hate unions so much, to keep it would make you even a bigger, flaming hypocrite.

    2. My "union-won pension"! A history lesson: state government established the first public sector pension funds, for Milwaukee’s protective service employees, in 1891, the year the Dalton gang robbed their first train. In 1907 the Wisconsin legislature authorized local police and fire pension funds outside Milwaukee. Teacher pensions came in 1911. Mandatory pensions for other government workers arrived in 1935.

      All of this was long before government employees were permitted to organize into labor unions. Gov. Gaylord Nelson signed collective bargaining into law for municipal workers and teachers in 1959. State employees climbed on board in 1967.

    3. You might be old, but you're not that old. Your pension is due to contracts made by the union. So when are you going to pay it back?

    4. “The employer pick up of the employee contribution was pretty much the only thing that could be bargained,” the head of the Department of Employee Trust Funds, Bob Donlin, told me. “Everything else — benefit levels, annual retirement adjustments, etc. — is set by statute or by the ETF Board upon recommendation of the actuary.”

      For the Record: that pickup began in 1983, not the 1990s as I stated earlier.

  8. I stated that incorrectly, but I'm sure a person familiar enough with school board negotiations that he would file a lawsuit would have been able to determine the point I was trying to make. That over the past few years since Walker has been gov. the CPI is up 9.95% and with a 2% raise over four years, an increase in the cost of health insurance and retirement, resulting in wages that just aren't keeping up. People see they are losing ground and they are getting out.

    Blaska where you one of those guys that said if you don't like it find a different job? Well that's what is happening and now your guys are struggling to find people to fill those positions and keep them filled once they see what it's like working for Walker. Good luck.

    From Wisconsin Association of Schoold Boards:

    The following chart lists the calculation of the annual average percentage change in the CPI-U that is applicable to collective bargaining over base wages, as announced by the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC) following an official determination by the Department of Revenue:

    July 1, 2011 1.64%
    July 1, 2012 3.16%
    July 1, 2013 2.07%
    July 1, 2014 1.46%
    July 1, 2015 1.62%

    1. No question that public sector employment is not (in general) as remunerative as in the past. That was never disputed. The people of Wisconsin decided that government employees should once again contribute to their defined benefit pensions — as they did prior to the late 1990s — and more for their unparalleled health insurance. Few in the private workforce have those kinds of benefits — or the job security. Your total lack of concern for private sector taxpayers, many of whom were laid off and foreclosed upon — and the remainder heavily taxed during the Doyle years — has been duly noted, as evidenced by Scott Walker's 3 election victories in the last 4 years and turning both houses of the legislature over to Republicans.

    2. When did voters decide that, David? Walker didn't run on it. He never even mentioned it. Sorry, your lies don't pass muster here.

    3. State employees always contributed to their pensions, just because you fail to educate yourself in how this occured doesn't make your statement true. Walker knew the truth from his time in the legislature, and he lied to the people of this state.

      What's more important to me is how the republicans view employment. That public employees have good health insurance, good retirement, and job security so they should pay more. That I lack concern for private sector employees, and only want for my personal concerns.
      This is why you and your republican friends are wrong. Public sector employees know that private sector employment needs to be strong and well paid and covered by good health insurance. That private sector people are being ripped off with defined contribution pensions, while corporate bosses are raking in an unprecedented share of the profits for themselves.

      Pulling me down will not raise you, we are all in this game together.

    4. "When did voters decide that, David? Walker didn't run on it. He never even mentioned it."

      Gee, Mr. C., what were the recalls all about? Even Mary Burke in 2014 said she wouldn't roll back the health and pension contributions. It's pretty much a consensus, outside of certain fever swamps. (Cough, cough.)

  9. Mary Burke said she wouldnt roll back the health and pension did she do in the election?

    The recalls at first were about collective bargaining, then they were about tom barretts ego and mike tates incompetence.

    1. How did Mary Burke do in the election? Not as well as Scott Walker. Duh?

  10. Well Mr. Blaska, I see nothing in your replies here that contradicts (and much that supports) my contention that Act 10 has been very negative for the state employees and is leading many to quit for employment elsewhere. Your man Walker's management style isn't appealing to his employees, and the private sector is looking more attractive. This isn't good for anyone, especially with Walker ignoring and taking a combative position with his employees.

    1. Act 10 has also been very negative for Democrats.

    2. Yes Mr. Blaska you are correct, but you've left out republicans and those that aren't members of the two largest political parties that are also suffering negatively.

      Using Act 10 to defeat a political foe and remove public unions has consequences, and now we are starting to see an acceleration in the disenchantment of working for the state. I'm not happy about this Mr. Blaska. Watching your co-workers leave and promising new empoyees quit is depressing.

    3. What empirical evidence have you that schools, municipalities, and state government are unable to fill job vacancies?

    4. You claim to have been a reporter for 18 years, and you are a regular guest on a statewide radio program because you are supposed to have an informed opinion, but do you have any objectivity left in you, enough curiosity to do some simple research even if what you may find doesn't make the political party you align yourself with look good?

      Start with Marty Beil, ask him to show you what's happening, he has more access to data than I do.
      How about this: So far this year about ten percent loss of staff where I work, and I'm aware of more leaving soon. Short staffing that causes forcing of overtime leading new employees to quit, and a solution that sent older staff out even though it hasn't been implemented. This is expensive, word is that it costs at least ten grand to train a new employee, and two years before they are up to full speed.

  11. The answer, ippons, to the question "What empirical evidence do you have?" is "None." Then I'm supposed to ask Marty Beil for an objective view? Marty Beil!?

  12. Deny and ignore the truth, stay happy and ignorant, but it won't change the wreck of post Act 10. 35% new staff post Act 10, not including a ten percent loss in the past four months. 19 officers quitting on the same day at one institution, does that even happen at a McDonalds?

  13. Well Mr. Blaska I've put up quite a bit of information, as have Capper and Sarge, what do you have to refute Marty Beil claims?

    More empirical evidence a 18 year vet reporter is unable to interpret:

    Overtime at the 10,000-employee Wisconsin Department of Corrections jumped 14 percent last year, reversing a downswing from 2012, the Gannett Wisconsin Media Investigative Team has found.

    New overtime rules in the wake of Act 10 helped DOC cut overtime from $38 million in 2011 to $29.9 million in 2012. But overtime rose in 2013 to $34.1 million, with one union leader saying the new regulations are having unintended consequences.

  14. Now, Mr. Blaska I'm going to disagree with Marty Beil. On August 6, 2012 Beil said that the new overtime rules would put inexperienced officers in units that they may not be prepared to work in.

    DOC Administrator Dennis Schuh stated, "So instead of always paying premium overtime to the most expensive people it should, if the security officers accept overtime relatively evenly across all seniority it should pull down our costs to a mid-level."

    The DOC guessed here and they were wrong, senior officers pulled back on working overtime when the new officers took the gravy jobs that would have went to a senior officer. This results in forcing overtime to fill a shift, and that leads to burnout then quitting.

  15. Now I see my worksite is losing three more employees as May begins, guess they don't like working for Walker. Through the Tommy years as the guv, we'd lose around six a year. Under Walker, so far in these first four months of 2015 we've lost 24 officers.

  16. When over the years the state negotiated contracts with bargaining units, it often refused to accept union-proposed wage increases, because such increases might be politically embarrassing to elected officials, especially in an era of anti-government rhetoric. But it also used to be that the state was sane enough to realize it couldn't simply refuse wage requests by fiat, so it typically would negotiate higher benefits (i.e., a bigger state contribution to the employees pension account and/or a bigger contribution to health insurance premiums) in exchange for lower or even zero wage increases. The unions accepted, because they had little other option -- public employee unions are banned from staging walk-outs. So Walker comes along and not only cuts wages, not only cuts benefits (by raising employee contributions, which amounts to a clawback of those previous promises), he basically wrecks the unions altogether. Except of course in the case of public safety (in this case, "Walker safety") unions, which promptly seek and are granted double-digit wage increases while everyone else takes another hair cut. You need merely chat up state employees to discover how a lot more of them, following the example of others already gone, are planning to retire early or quit before their time. They are fed up with lousy compensation (not even matching market-rate compensation, which the DOT readily acknowledges is a problem among many on its staff) and, worse, the destruction of civil service rules and contracted grievance procedures, which have turned state workplaces into very unpleasant places to work. Suddenly being treated like a junior high school class clown after 10, 20 or 30 years of positive performance reviews is not something very man workers anywhere will tolerate for very long. Mr. Blaska's line that Act 10 "hurt Democrats" is yet another tacit admission that the law was never really about "balancing" the state budget -- it was about marginalizing perceived political opponents. But what this analysis ignores is that even Democratic administrations played hardball with public employee unions, because that's what managers always do. I know of one state employee union that negotiated a contract during the Doyle administration, in which the deal took so long to complete that the contract term ended before the contract took effect through legislative approval. There is politics, and there is business. Negotiating a contract is business. The Walkerites and the GOP do not understand this distinction, however. They're authoritarians of the first rank. They're the "shut up and get back to work" crowd. And they're ensuring that, under their watch, government will actually start to become as ineffective as they already claim it is.

    1. Very well stated, and completely true. While republicans gloat about defeating public unions, they fail to understand they are beating upon their own employees. Well they aren't slaves, so the response is, "Screw this I'm out of here, it isn't worth it anymore."