Like it or not, last week’s Wisconsin Supreme Court decision on the state’s controversial Act 10 accomplished one thing: It settles the issue. Act 10 will remain in place unless the Legislature decides otherwise. Now, it’s time to move on and make the best of the post-Act 10 world.
Act 10 is the legislation initiated by Gov. Scott Walker in early 2011 that strips nearly all bargaining power from the state’s public employee unions. The unions and their employers still must negotiate wages up to the point of inflation, but that’s all.
Last week’s ruling was the right call. Act 10 was a policy decision that falls within the rights of the Legislature. You might not like it, but that’s a matter to be taken up with lawmakers.
Perhaps Act 10 was an overreach with its union-busting provisions, but it addressed a fiscal need in Wisconsin and the school districts and municipalities that receive state aid.
Public employee benefits, specifically pensions and health care, had become overly generous and burdensome on employers, and Act 10 addressed that by requiring employees to contribute their fair shares. The result has saved the state and local governments millions of dollars. Those savings have helped those local governments address state aid cuts and ongoing budget challenges.
While Act 10 removed virtually all bargaining clout from employee unions, it doesn’t mean that public employers can or should run roughshod over their workers. As Janesville schools Superintendent Karen Schulte stressed, the local district — and, by extension, other public employers — still must offer attractive working conditions.
Now that the legal questions surrounding Act 10 are resolved, let’s move forward with a clear understanding that the law is here to stay and that public employers and employees still must work together to ensure that quality workers continue to provide quality services.