Wisconsin Governor Proposes Eliminating UW Faculty's Right to Unionize

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker recently introduced an emergency "budget repair" bill designed to balance the state budget without raising taxes. The bill would require state employees to pay approximately 5.8 percent toward their pensions, far more than they currently pay. It would also increase the percentage of annual health insurance premiums paid by state employees from about 6 percent to at least 12.6 percent.

"It's fair to ask public employees to make a pension payment of just over 5 percent, which is about the national average, and a premium payment of 12 percent, which is about half of the national average," Walker said.

The bill would also repeal a law, enacted in 2009, that gave University of Wisconsin faculty and academic staff the right to collectively bargain. "The 2009 legislation has already led to votes by faculty members at two University of Wisconsin campuses to unionize with the American Federation of Teachers, and organizing drives (some already leading to dates for union votes) within much of the rest of the university system," writes Inside Higher Ed's Scott Jaschik. "The drives in Wisconsin have been one of the major successes for the academic labor movement in recent years--and the governor's proposal would effectively eliminate those victories."

"Unions have thus far been recognized on two University of Wisconsin campuses, Eau Claire and Superior," writes The Chronicle of Higher Education's Jack Stripling. "Elections have also been requested by faculty members on four other campuses, including La Crosse, River Falls, Stevens Point, and Stout."

"The prospect left union leaders, state and local employees and some Democrats stunned over the plan's scope and what it might signal for public-sector unions in the state," write The New York Times' Monica Davey and Steven Greenhouse. "Union leaders began planning rallies in Madison and contacting lawmakers, pressing them to reject the idea. Mr. Walker said Wisconsin was prepared for any fallout, noting in an interview that the National Guard was ready to step in to handle state duties, if need be."