The New Bargaining Laws and Their Impact on You

Updated: 9/13/11

A new law that drastically eviscerates Wisconsin’s collective bargaining statutes went into effect on June 29. In addition, the state budget bill has now become the law as well, and it further changes the collective bargaining laws that we have known. This page briefly summarizes these new laws and their impacts on you.

The key statutory changes impacting “general employees” (non-law enforcement officers) are the following:

For General Employees Not Covered Under a Current Contract:

  • Your contribution to the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) will be set at 5.8% of your pay, and you will have to pick up 12.6% of the cost of the premium of any health insurance plan in the State Health Plan. Both your participation in the WRS and health insurance premium will become prohibited subjects of bargaining, as will your health insurance benefit level.
  • Any future increases in wages will be limited to increases in the Consumer Price Index, which is a measure estimating the average price of consumer goods and services. Larger wage increases could only be achieved upon approval of local voters through a referendum.
  • Wage issues such as lanes, steps, scales, and overtime will no longer be mandatory subjects of collective bargaining. It appears that the same is true with respect to the rules regarding non-economic terms within contracts, such as sick leave, vacation, etc.
  • Contracts will be limited to one year in duration and extensions will not be permitted.
  • Local governments will be required to establish a civil service system to establish a grievance process that addresses terminations, discipline, and workplace safety. This process will include a hearing before an impartial hearing officer and an appeal process to the final governing body of the public employer.
  • “Fair share” (union dues equivalent fair share amounts) would be eliminated, and your employer will be prohibited from deducting union dues or fair share payments from your paycheck.
  • Mediation and arbitration proceedings to settle grievances and contractual disputes over wages, hours, and conditions of employment will no longer be available.
  • Beginning in early 2012, your local union will have to undergo the first of what will be annual certification elections that are administered by the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC) to maintain your status as a bargaining unit. In order to successfully do so, 51% of the entire membership of your local (as opposed to those voting) must affirmatively vote for the union and the representation that it provides.
  • If 51% of your membership does not vote in favor of the union, you will have no collective representation and you will lose all of the protections and benefits provided by your contract.

General Employees Covered Under A Contract:

  • Beginning in early 2012, if you are in the last year of your contract, your local union will have to undergo the first of what will be annual certification elections that are administered by the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC) to maintain your status as a bargaining unit. In order to successfully do so, 51% of the entire membership of your local (as opposed to those voting) must affirmatively vote for the union and the representation that it provides.
  • If 51% of your membership does not vote in favor of the union, you will have no collective representation and you will lose all of the protections and benefits provided by your contract.
  • As long as you are covered under an unexpired contract, the provisions listed above will not apply to you.
  • Once your contract expires, all of the provisions listed above will apply to you.

For Law Enforcement Officers:

  • All newly hired officers not covered under a current collective bargaining agreement will be required to pay a contribution to the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) of 5.8% of their pay.
  • For all law enforcement officers, the budget eliminated your ability to collectively bargain on the design and choice of your health insurance plan.
  • All current law enforcement officers, as long as you do not move to another agency, will be exempt from any further collective bargaining restrictions, for now. Non-law enforcement employees working in your city or county, along with newly hired police officers, will have fewer rights and be required to pay the retirement and health insurance contributions. This will make it difficult, even through bargaining, to avoid the ETF and health insurance contributions absent a voluntary agreement with your employer. We anticipate that employers will demand that officers make these payments, and it is extremely unlikely that an arbitrator would allow you to avoid such a result.
  • Supervisory law enforcement personnel (whether covered by a collective bargaining agreement or not) and non-supervisory law enforcement officers serving a municipality with a population of less than 2,500, are exempt and should not have to immediately pay the WRS and health insurance premium contributions.
  • The WRS contributions for “non-represented law enforcement managerial employees” will be limited to the percentage of the WRS contribution paid by “represented law enforcement personnel.” This distinction may cause some confusion, however, as the law does not define the terms “non-represented law enforcement managerial employees” or “represented law enforcement personnel.”
  • The ability for city, town, and village police unions to bargain to have their discipline heard by an arbitrator, as opposed to a Police and Fire Commission, will no longer exist. A priority for 30 years, the WPPA was proud to see the law allowing police to bargain for arbitration of their discipline established in the 2007-2009 state budget. The new budget bill repeals that law, despite the fact that arbitration can be less time-consuming and costly, and more equitable. Municipal police unions that have bargained an arbitration alternative into their contracts will lose the protections of the provision at the contracts’ expirations. County law enforcement officers will retain their rights to arbitration under a separate statute.

Still have questions?

Please e-mail Executive Director Jim Palmer at palmer@wppa.com.

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