What Is In Those Union Contracts Anyway?

If you listened to the chants on the steps of the state capital, one might believe that public employees are treated awfully poorly in Wisconsin. If you listen to the statements made by politicians and union leaders that say Governor Walker’s budget repair bills is akin to “legalized slavery,” you might think public employees are getting a raw deal.

But the facts show otherwise. Public employees have a sweet deal in Wisconsin.

  • The Legislative Fiscal Bureau determined that the average compensation for a full-time Wisconsin public employee in 2010-11 is $76,500 per year. (legislative fiscal bureau memo 1/11/11)
  • According to the Department of Public Instruction, the average Wisconsin teachers makes $74,844 per year.(Department of Public Instruction website)

But the wages do not tell the entire story. Because of the collective bargaining statute in Wisconsin, public employees are able to negotiate certain “sweetheart deals” that allow them to earn far more than their normal wages and drive up costs for taxpayers. Take  the Madison bus driver who used the system to earn $159,258 in 2009.  Worse, he’s not an isolated incident.   According to the Wisconsin State Journal seven Madison bus drivers made over $100,000 in 2009.

Upon examination of the 2008-2009 collective bargaining agreement between AFSCME Council 24 and the state of Wisconsin, one finds an abundance of these types of “sweetheart deals” that provide privilege and opportunity for public employees to earn compensation far above their wages.

  • Pyramiding is the process whereby public employees can earn a payment of overtime (time and a half) in addition to the premium rate (time and a half) one earns for a holiday. For example, on days such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day, driver’s working overtime in the snow plows were making holiday pay (time and half) plus overtime pay (time and a half) for their long shifts during the blizzard. This amounts to 225% of normal wages on certain days. (page 58)
  • Compensatory time continues to rollover and accumulate for public employees and if not used by a certain date is converted into a cash payment. (page 58)
  • This particular contract allows public employees to be compensated for every mile beyond 18 miles between a worker’s residence and place of work. Therefore, if a worker is stuck in traffic in that final mile before he gets home, he can rack up compensation. (page 56)
  • Public employees are eligible for a half hour’s wages for any work related phone call made outside of normal hours. (page 61)

This is just a small example of why Wisconsin can no longer collectively bargain with public employees. The unions always extract deals such as these that allow bus driver’s to earn over $100,000 in overtime pay.