The Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC), Wisconsin’s paramount teachers union, issued layoff notices to 40 percent of its staff. Union bosses blame Gov. Scott Walkers “union-busting” legislation as the cause for the layoffs. Executive Director of WEAC Dan Burkhalter declared, “We had to make decisions about this budget year that starts in a couple weeks, based on the number of members we have now.” To summarize, the union had to balance their budget.
The above statement sounds eerily familiar to Gov. Scott Walker’s logic for the supposed “union-busting” budget repair bill. Gov. Walker stated, “We must take immediate action to ensure fiscal stability in our state. This budget repair bill will meet the immediate needs of our state and give government the tools to deal with this and future budget crises.”
What happened to Gov. Walker for making decisions? Union supporters protested at the Wisconsin Capitol. He was compared to Hitler, received threats, and the controversy resulted in several recall elections. So far, there has been no word from rank and file union members, but there are no protests or threats on the horizon for WEAC or the union bosses.
Gov. Walker felt the full wrath of Big Labor for budget cuts, yet he was able to keep union members employed. Here Gov. Walker states the benefits of the Budget Repair Bill:
The Legislature helped us save 1,500 middle-class jobs by moving forward this week with the budget repair. The state will now be able to realize $30 million in savings to balance the budget and allow 1,500 state employees to keep their jobs. The reforms contained in this legislation, which require modest health care and pension contributions from all public employees, will help put Wisconsin on a path to fiscal sustainability.
WEAC has no silver lining in their budget cutting and layoffs. As well, Burkhalter claims of fiscal necessity are disingenuous. Gov. Walker inherited a fiscal mess when he took leadership in Wisconsin. WEAC has had opportunities to cut costs which would have kept the employees’ jobs safe.
WEAC leadership all make six-figure salaries. The worst offender is Executive Director Burkhalter, who earns $242,000 per year. Seven union bosses of WEAC together earn $1,335,043 annually. Big Labor strives for equality in its pay for members, but union leadership would rather lay off 40 percent of their employees to keep their bloated wages. These actions make the “We Are One” chants comical. Union members in Wisconsin need to start realizing “We Are One” only applies when it’s the government’s or corporations’ money.
Beyond inflated executive union salaries that could be cut, there is a litany of other frivolous expenses by WEAC. Legal expenses totaled $801,105, office expenses $1,395,381, travel $1,835,207, conferences/meetings $185,398, and other fees and services $2,827,270. The laid off workers will have a hard time believing those expenses were essential and could not have been trimmed.
Even worse, WEAC in recent efforts to recall a number of Wisconsin state senators to repeal the Walker’s budget bill, in hopes of keeping a stranglehold on public employee labor and forced dues. This effort cost WEAC upwards of $500,000. Unfortunately for WEAC, they couldn’t recall a sufficient number of legislators, and $500,000 probably could have saved at least a few employees from the unemployment line.
Between equalizing salaries within the union headquarters and cuts in frivolous political spending, WEAC would not have had to lay off their union brothers. However, no use of crying over spilt milk, Big Labor never accepts fiscal realities when negotiating with employers, so why start now? The laid off employees need to organize against WEAC to restore their jobs and prove there is some unity and brotherhood left in organized labor. Or maybe the members are tuckered out from protesting Gov. Walker or they do not care that they are pawns to union bosses like Burkhalter.