On June 15, 2011, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled to lift Judge Sumi’s injunction on the Budget Repair Bill giving the state the go-ahead to implement the bill as law. During the protests of February through May, people came together in attempt to stop the bill from becoming law – but now it is law and that’s that. In the media, I didn’t see any uproar, or questioning of this new law’s impact, or calls to know what’s in store for us in the future — I found just two (1, 2) recent articles which recounted the push-back and feelings of solidarity of the protests and emphasized the need to remember these feelings and our (i.e. public employees) connections to each other. Both articles, however, treated the fight for our collective bargaining rights as being over — we should look back on our solidarity and our fight and know that even though we “lost,” we tried our darnedest. But the assault isn’t over — it’s just beginning. Things are going to change and people’s lives are going to be affected – we just don’t know exactly how or when.
In the past week, I have attempted to make a list of the immediate and long-term implications of this new law for the employees of UW-Madison. We need to keep track of all the effects of this law so that we can literally show the members of the legislature who supported this bill exactly WHY we were screaming back in February “This bill does not repair the budget! And this bill does not help the people of Wisconsin!”
As a TA at UW-Madison, I am concerned about what this means for me when I return to work in August — I have no idea how this law will affect my life in the near or distant future. But I do know that my union no longer has the right to bargain with the State of Wisconsin about anything other than my salary (which by law can now only be raised to match the rate of inflation, meaning that although we haven’t been bargaining for a pay raise in years, now we legally can’t even ask for one). Other questions I have about the implications of this law for me as a UW employee include:
- What does this mean for my healthcare coverage?
- What does this mean for the grievance procedures, workload limits, sick leave, and emergency family leave policies that were granted to me in my contract? Do I even have a “contract” now?
- How can we as graduate student workers make our needs and desires known and recognized? And who should we be trying to make our needs and desires known to (i.e. the administration, politicians, lobbyists, etc.)?
- What does it mean now that the TAA can no longer charge non-members for the cost of representation (i.e. the TAA can no longer collect dues from non-members even though they will be representing them in salary negotiations) — this surely means that the TAA will struggle in raising funds, which makes me wonder how the staff and volunteers for the TAA will be able to work towards protecting things like my salary, healthcare, workload limits, etc. when there is no money – but who will they be “bargaining” with now that they won’t be “bargaining” with the state?
- What does this mean for my tuition waiver?
I am also concerned that people may not realize how MANY people working for the UW are affected by this law – in addition to graduate student workers, this law will affect the lives of classified staff, academic staff, non-reps, and the faculty.
Additionally, I am concerned that the effects will not all be felt at the same time (unlike in February, when we all felt attacked at the same time with the introduction of the bill). Many things will change as a result of Wisconsin Act 10, and these changes will not all happen at once, making it difficult to keep count of all the impacts of this new law, and difficult to support each other when we’re all being attacked from different sides at different times. Two already-observable implications of this law include the revoking of academic staff and faculty members’ right to unionize (which they just won) and the decision by UW system to prohibit all UW employee organizations (unionized or otherwise) from collecting dues as of August (as discussed in the S&W article). But it’s only July. Who knows what changes in working conditions will occur for UW employees between now and the start of fall semester.
Wisconsin has not lost, however. Wisconsin is still very much in this battle, and we need to do more than just look back to the protests of February and remember the feelings of solidarity — we need to vote, we need to stay united, we need to ask questions, and we need to keep turning to each other for support and help — Please share the ways in which this law impacts you, your friends and family, and please continue to speak out and up and QUESTION those who make decisions with inconceivable ramifications so that we can combat these attacks on our rights and livelihoods with empirical purpose and unrelenting solidarity.
- Alyson S.
Graduate student teaching assistant