Statement from the UW Oshkosh Senate of Academic Staff
We, the Senate of Academic Staff at UW Oshkosh, represent 823 employees at this institution. We urge you, our elected officials, to consider the concerns of thousands of your constituents who have spoken out at the State Capitol and in their home districts. Many newly elected officials campaigned on the idea of reducing the size of government without outlining details. Those details are now public and the priorities of the State have shifted to support a new agenda. Indeed, the new reality of our State leadership favors some individuals while taking the rights of others. The motto of the State of Wisconsin, as displayed on our state flag, proclaims “FORWARD.” Forward thinking seems no longer being applied.
The mismanagement and speculation of the housing and banking sectors have lead to fiscal crises nationwide. Removing organized labor rights and/or indiscriminately reducing compensation packages for all State employees will not solve the current budget shortfall. Many of our constituents are taking steps to cut back on expenses or to defer large purchases; therefore the local economy will continue to feel the impact into at least the continuing short term future.
The public needs to be more fully aware of the details of the proposed bill and educated on its advantages and disadvantages. The media’s oversimplifications of this complex bill are not helpful. Clichés such as “The State is broken” or “State employees need to pay their fair share” are tools to misinform and pit public opinion against public employees. Such sweeping generalizations are unacceptable statements from our State leadership who are accountable to everyone, not just those who supported individual candidates’ campaigns or ideologies. The long tradition of success of the State of Wisconsin continues to depend on the representation of all residents.
We respectfully ask that if our State is broken, why did the legislature enact tax credits for the very rich a few weeks ago? Sacrifice for this budget crisis should be shared by all citizens. Economics professors within our College of Business calculate that were the State to increase the sales tax by a mere .16%, this action alone would meet the biennial shortfall. Especially because the economy seems gradually to be improving, a temporary tax would allow for an equal distribution of the tax burden to those that have maintained purchasing power.
Furthermore, these are some facts we ask you to consider:
1. Misleading information widely publicized in the media suggests that State employees do not contribute their fair share. This is untrue; examination of total compensation (wages + benefits) in at least two separate studies (one at UW- Milwaukee and another at the highly respected Economic Policy Institute in Washington, DC) find that total compensation (wages + benefits) for WI public sector workers is actually about 5% below the private sector. The proposed salary reductions resulting from increased pension contributions and health insurance payments would increase this differential for state workers to about 13% below parity with the private sector.
2. Many of us have taken or will take on additional responsibilities to meet the demands of growing numbers of incoming students. While the UW System continues to be strong and challenged with record enrollment numbers, the employees at our schools continue to accomplish more with fewer resources.
Some of the research supporting these facts can be reviewed here:
3. As documented by the public statements from the Academic Staff Senate at UW Milwaukee, UW Madison’s Academic Staff Assembly and those of other sister institutions, the efforts and hardship endured by State employees have not been represented accurately by elected officials. A severe impact on compensation and benefits may trigger a chain reaction on local economies.
Sources of these facts:
4. Research by the Institute for Wisconsin’s Future confirms that the current budget proposal could take 900 million to 1.2 billion dollars out of the State economy. The general public needs to realize that this budget approach will not only impact State employees but also those businesses near their communities.
Sources of these facts:
Analysis and Commentary:
·Many of our UW constituents may leave the State to avoid the undue hardships of a labor environment that has already not been competitive for many years. Many campus leaders fear that the very best employees will depart to other states. We urge the human resource units throughout the State and specifically our campus human resource office to document and report the impact this action may have on new hires, retirements, departures and the capacity of our University to recruit and retain new talent.
·Affordable education for all is the best answer for the economic predicament the State is experiencing. Constituents need to ask questions regarding proposals to increase tuitions at rates never experienced before. While other countries like Canada and China invest in education, we continue to cut back on State funding on the premise of budget issues. We understand that it doesn’t take an advanced degree to run for office, but education is nevertheless an important element of the notion that the State is “Open for Business” --unless the reference to word “business” is about low paying jobs. Instead, we must invest in education and in green and sustainable initiatives.
·We believe that misinformation has been distributed regarding compensation levels for UW employees. We urge the UW System to disclose the Redbook (HR budget document) to the public via the websites that currently are available within our campus networks. Educating the public on the realities of our compensation is necessary for a fair discussion. Access to the UW System Redbook would allow the general population to acknowledge the compensation levels of those currently employed by the State. We believe a study on the overall compensation packages should be sponsored and delivered by the UW System. (See http://systemwide.uwsa.edu/budplan).
·We strongly support the premise that all public and private employees have equal rights to collective bargaining efforts. The currently proposed budget bill would eliminate fifty years of collective bargaining which has provided quality education.
·Public employees are being compared to private sector employees on many levels; but when the private sector does well economically, it is possible for those employees to obtain bonuses, pay raises and better benefits. This is not the case for the public sector. Some public employees must rely on the unions to negotiate on their behalf. Non-represented employees also benefit from the negotiations that take place on behalf of collective bargaining.
·We urge our elected officials to stop vilifying State Employees and Unions by referring to State employees as the class of “haves” sponsored by the class of “have nots.” Statements shared through the media about appreciating the work we do have been disingenuous at best because they have not been paired with good faith efforts to negotiate. The rhetoric refers to public employees as bottom feeders, leeches, or hooligans. This is unacceptable! The stripping of rights for teachers and other public employees falsely accepts that these demeaning descriptions are accurate. We believe it is our responsibility to take a stand on behalf of all educators to prevent the erosion of what is and has been a UW System with a long tradition of providing quality education. This State is less likely to attract quality instructors at the post-secondary level if the climate in the State is to under-value the work they do. This will have long-term negative consequences on the State as a whole.
·The budget should not be balanced solely by the sacrifice of State employees and their families. These measures will only yield about $300 million towards a shortfall projected to be over $3 billion. Legislators who truly want solutions should consider spreading the burden by raising taxes equally on Wisconsin's corporations and wealthiest individuals. The new measures proposed by Governor Walker will push the tax burden to the local level. The governor calls it tooling the municipalities for the budget downfall; we call it passing the buck.
We urge all members of the legislative bodies to oppose Governor Walker's seriously flawed budget repair bill. Regardless of ideology or party affiliation, State government represents all residents of Wisconsin. The democracy we uphold espouses a process of debate and negotiation to reach a consensus.
Respectfully submitted to the Public and Elected Officials by the Senate of Academic Staff at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.