Bertolini is just one of tens of thousands of public workers in Wisconsin without union contracts who have faced reduced buying power in the wake of Gov. Scott Walker’s landmark legislation — unveiled one year ago this week — to balance the budget by curtailing union collective bargaining and extracting financial concessions from workers.
Private sector workers have lost jobs and suffered pay and benefit cuts in recent years, and many are used to going without pensions, paying into retirement accounts and paying more for health insurance. But the erosion in public worker benefits happened suddenly, prompting massive protests at the Capitol, sparking recall efforts against Walker and lawmakers and transforming the state into a national battleground over the future of unions.
Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie blamed the budgeting practices of previous administrations, and said the higher insurance premiums and pension contributions prevented layoffs while keeping taxes down, cutting state costs at a rate of $308 million a year. Another $65 million in annual savings are expected from higher health care co-pays that started Jan. 1, Werwie said.
“Asking government employees to contribute to a portion of their pension and health care costs, far less than the average person in the private sector pays, helped keep thousands of workers on the job, while thousands of Wisconsinites have seen property tax relief for the first time in years,” Werwie said.
The “shared sacrifices” brought government more in line with private business, said Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon.
“Although it’s tough, it’s also been tough on the private sector, people who are unemployed now,” Fitzgerald said. “Obviously, it’s a highly charged issue.”
You guys, it’s so much better now that NOBODY is protected in any way. It’s so great. See, the point is to make a society in which everybody (except for like five guys who run stuff) is equally screwed. That way a maintenance worker can’t give a teacher any shit for his fantastic salary, because he’s just as bad off as she is. And an office park dweller has no pension, but it’s okay, because neither does the guy who processes his unemployment claims! PROBLEM SOLVED! It’s like magic how that works.