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01.31.2011 0

Wisconsin Teacher Protests Send Mixed Signals

  • On: 02/22/2011 09:18:23
  • In: Big Labor
  • By Rebekah Rast

    “When school children start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children.”—Albert Shanker, past president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).

    Looks like those teachers protesting in Wisconsin have taken Shanker’s quote to heart. Teachers in Madison, Wis., are calling in “sick” to work because they are upset over a proposed bill, which would put an end to collective bargaining and increase employee contributions to health care and pension funds.

    Meanwhile the school children are left without a teacher.

    Gov. Walker’s Budget Repair Bill will require state employees to pay about 5.8 percent toward their pension (about the private sector national average) and about 12 percent of their healthcare benefits (about half the private sector national average).

    “This bill aims to bring fiscal sanity to the state of Wisconsin. Governor Walker is to be commended for that effort,” says Bill Wilson, president of Americans for Limited Government (ALG). “Here in the Commonwealth of Virginia, public sector employees do not have collective bargaining rights and they do just fine.”

    This bill by no means should have instigated the kind of protests going on in Wisconsin. Not only have the teacher strikes in Madison caused schools to close, but Wisconsin State Senate Democrats fled a vote by hiding out in Illinois.

    What are teachers in Wisconsin so afraid of? After all, the average Wisconsin striking teacher’s salary is $77,718 compared to the average Wisconsin worker’s salary of $53,724.

    “With a salary that high, these teachers can pay into their own health care and pension like most working Americans,” says Wilson. “Taxpayers do not need to fully support the pensions and health care plans of public sector union employees any longer.”

    It is clear these teachers have no interest in paying into their retirement, health care or even being evaluated based on their merits as a teacher. This begs the question: Do these teachers care more about their jobs than their students?

    “If these striking teachers really cared about their students then they’d be in the classroom right now and not at the state capital protesting,” says ALG’s Wilson.

    Wilson goes on to say, “It’s not only the federal government’s budget that is a mess right now. States’ budgets need to be fixed as well and that means everyone is going to feel the pinch of cutbacks, including public sector employees.”

    With Gov. Walker’s alternative plan to lay off more than 10,000 workers, Wisconsin teachers better get back to work.

    Rebekah Rast is a contributing editor at Americans for Limited Government (ALG) News Bureau. You can follow her on Twitter at @RebekahRast.

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