Monday, May 9, 2011

Stealth Wisconsin

The DE story on the infamous Town Hall Meeting features the poor prognosis for next year's budget, and all but promises six furlough days next year (perhaps a good interpretation of Cheng's remarks, though not something she made explicit herself). The Southern has a stub of a story on the budget as well.

SIUC, like all public universities (and perhaps a bit more so, thanks to our enrollment issues) does face real financial problems. But the administration's posture seems to be that they decide how to allocate the resources, then tell the unions what their people are going to be paid.  Telling the unions what their people are going to be paid, nicely, and perhaps allowing them to be not paid in half days of their own choosing, counts as "good faith bargaining".

This won't fly. That's not a contract: it's capitulation. It's stealth Wisconsin.*

For this isn't exactly the first time an employer and union have negotiated in a time of fiscal constraint and fiscal uncertainty, after all. Such circumstances do not obviate the legal duty to negotiate in good faith. The administration needs either to bargain to some fixed figure (meaning a pay level that can't be cut by 3% through six furlough days) or agree on some way that the unions can be involved in deciding what sort of salary level is appropriate given the budgetary situation. And the unions need to be full partners in making the decision if they aren't to surrender an essential part of their (our!) collective bargaining rights.

There are two ways to do that.  Either we set up some sort of committee in which the unions get equal say with the administration, or we agree to abide by some set of fiscal data--say the past year's budget. The FA has proposed version of both approaches.

The budgetary details, and details of the process, can get complicated, but the basic principle about bargaining is pretty clear. So it will be easy enough to tell if the administration is bargaining in good faith. Good faith bargaining requires that they be willing either to bargain a fixed figure for salaries (with no furlough escape clause) or to bargain toward some fair process to tie salaries to the actual budget. That's not too much to ask--or too much to demand.

Finally, I'll note one chronic error in the DE story: it claims that SIUC began with a $13 million deficit this fiscal year.  It's tough to be in deficit before you've spent anything. The administration has managed to "own" the fiscal issue by repeating some such figure for the FY 2011 "shortfall", which is repeated again & again as the single meaningful fact about the budget in news items; I've tried to show why this is at best a very partial account of the situation elsewhere (in the document cited in this post). See also the FA White Papers on the budget.
*Actually, it may be worse than that, as unions in Wisconsin retained the right to bargain over salaries. The administration posture here appears to be that it's not possible to negotiate salaries.

1 comment:

  1. Illinois Democratic leadership "works together" with IEA who opposes and then relents to anti-union acts, stating "this is not Wisconsin."

    It sure ain't -- it's far worse: latest pension bill (SB 312) requires those of us with defined benefit pensions to increase our contributions from 8% to 14.5% --- a 6.5% increase (pay cut)! That's to keep our "constitutionally guaranteed" pension.

    Even worse, because the state is contributing so little (1.5%?) the feds will probably add Social Security tax (another 6.5% for retirement) based on the reasoning that our employer isn't offering a satisfactory pension.

    Do the math: 6.5 + 6.5 = 13% pay cut to keep a pension not to be "diminished or impaired" (IL state constitution).

    This is progressive law coming home to roost. The boys and girls in Springfield are not progressives but some of their opponents are such. Yet progressives were never very big on "original intent" or "plain meaning" of constitutions," were they?


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