Three years ago, Wisconsin become Ground Zero for the battle over public sector unions. There were two sides drawn with Scott Walker and austerity supporters on one and the unions on the other. The former prevailed and the public sector unions were not allowed, by law, to bargain collectively (except for the police and fire department).
The results from this change in policy are muddy at best. Scott Walker promised 250,000 jobs as a result. The state has only netted just over 50,000. Of course, that's a politician's promise so a boulder of salt should taken with it. Wisconsin's unemployment rate sits at 6.5 percent which is about the national average. The state government has a surplus (yippee!) but that's not really saying much. As I have mentioned previously, Wisconsin illustrates how austerity policies do not work.
That being said, this recent article in the Times shows how there are many sides to this story. For instance,
Ted Neitzke, school superintendent in West Bend, a city of 31,000 people north of Milwaukee, said that before Act 10 his budget-squeezed district had to cut course offerings and increase class sizes. Now, the district has raised the retirement age for teachers and revamped its health plan, saving $250,000 a year. “We couldn’t negotiate or maneuver around that when there was bargaining,” Mr. Neitzke said. “We’ve been able to shift money out of the health plan back into the classroom. We’ve increased programming.”
A good thing for students but not so great for the teachers. Now, they have to contribute more out of pocket and, as a result, they don't have as much money to spend in the economy. The rest of the piece looks at examples of all the different angles and fallout from Act 10. It's very much worth a slow read because what is seen on Fox or MSNBC is very simplistic.
Here's something else from the article I found interesting.
James R. Scott, a Walker appointee who is chairman of the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission, which administers the law regarding public-employee unions, said that “as a result of Act 10, the advantages that labor held have been diminished.” He added: “It’s fair to say that employers have the upper hand now.”
But the employers are the government. Doesn't that add power to "Big" Government? What power does the individual now have if they are a public employee?