Wisconsin Democratic aide says governor must compromise

MADISON, Wisconsin Tue Feb 22, 2011 8:16am EST

Benjamin Frelka of Madison, Wisconsin poses for a portrait with his sign as he marches around the Capitol while protesters gather to protest against a proposed bill by Governor Scott Walker in Madison, Wisconsin, February 21, 2011. REUTERS/Darren Hauck

Benjamin Frelka of Madison, Wisconsin poses for a portrait with his sign as he marches around the Capitol while protesters gather to protest against a proposed bill by Governor Scott Walker in Madison, Wisconsin, February 21, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Darren Hauck

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MADISON, Wisconsin (Reuters) - Democratic lawmakers who left Wisconsin to stall passage of a controversial budget bill that has triggered mass protests may return if the governor compromises with public employees over collective bargaining, an aide to the Senate leader said on Sunday.

Wisconsin Senate minority leader Mark Miller left Wisconsin with 13 Democrat colleagues to stall a vote on Governor Scott Walker's plan to cut benefits and change collective bargaining rules for most Wisconsin public employees. That has brought thousands out in protest outside the state Capitol.

Miller's aide Mike Browne said the unions representing those workers have signaled their willingness to meet the governor, and are prepared to increase the amount of money they pay toward their health and benefit plans.

"He has before him the option to do what he wants financially. But he needs to compromise," Browne told Reuters.

Asked what it would take to get the 14 Senators including Miller back in Wisconsin and back in the State Capitol, Browne said: "The ball is in the governor's court."

Under the governor's bill, state workers must increase contributions to their pensions to 5.8 percent of salary, and double contributions to their health insurance premiums to 12.6 percent. This would result in a cut in take-home pay of about 8 percent.

But Browne said the governor must drop the additional proposed limits to collective bargaining by public employees contained in the budget bill.

Walker wants to limit collective bargaining to the issue of wages and cap salary increases to the rate of inflation, with a voter referendum needed for bigger increases.

His proposal also would prohibit employer collection of union dues and members of collective bargaining units would not be required to pay dues. Contracts would be limited to one year and collective bargaining units would have to take annual votes to maintain certification as a union.

Some workers, such as fire and law enforcement employees, would be exempt from the collective bargaining changes. But it's unclear exactly how many workers across the state will be affected by the proposed measure.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which was founded here, counts 66,000 active and retired members in Wisconsin.

Protests against Walker's proposals grew in the past week. On Saturday, officials estimated about 55,000 demonstrators gathered. On Monday, the Wisconsin Education Association Council, representing some 98,000 public education employees, plans a rally on Monday.

Protests were far smaller on Sunday, with snow and sleet making conditions outside the Capitol cold and miserable.

(Reporting by James B. Kelleher, Editing by Peter Bohan)

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Comments (16)
go2goal wrote:
What is the real reason behind Governor Walker’s union busting tactics….to repeal the right to collective bargaining by all government workers?

People, we’ve seen how corporations have outsourced jobs to contractors to lower costs. THINK…..Gov Walker and if he succeeds, other Republican Governors are dying to outsource all the teaching jobs in our public schools. Get ready for your son’s and daughter’s science teacher and coach to be a contract worker.

The Republicans know they have to keep schools open…or the people might really wake up. So they are going to implement the next best thing….they are going to drive the costs to the floor. I predict within 10 years, all elementary school, middle school, and high school teachers will be contract workers….and many of them won’t even be US citizens.

Feb 22, 2011 8:44am EST  --  Report as abuse
phuyayyay wrote:
Why does the governor have to compromise with the Senate Democrats? Walker won the election and the state house now it is up to the runaway democrats to come back and do the negotiations in the state house, not from a bar in Illinois. The dems are acting like children. If they had any gumption they would fight it our on the floor of the Senate. What a bunch of sissies.

Feb 22, 2011 8:54am EST  --  Report as abuse
phuyayyay wrote:
I advocate a modified home school and traditional school setting. Right now, it is possible to down load classes from MIT for free. You get no credit, but you have access to MIT professors and their lectures. Why not do that with K-12 students? Have them study at home two or three days a week taking classes from the best instructors in the world. On the alternating days, they would attend school for testing, follow up and other activities. Centers could be established in apartment complexes and community centers to monitor students whose parents work. Change is coming – and the traditional classroom is going to change as well. One day, a plan similar to mine is going to take place because states are not going to be able to pay for union teachers and the high costs to maintain schools. Only the best teachers will be employed and there will be fewer of them. If this means a better educated child, who would be against this? The teachers unions would. However, they will lose this battle. There is not enough money to keep the current system in place.

Feb 22, 2011 9:04am EST  --  Report as abuse
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