Thirteen-thousand and two-hundred dollars is a guaranteed absolute minimum of how much money my father stands to lose March 13th if Governor Walker’s bill gets through the state legislature. His contract includes $3 to every hour of sick leave and vacation he doesn’t use. There are also other ways to accrue hours and I don’t claim to know much about the finite details about that but over the many years he’s worked in the Department of Corrections, he’s banked 4400 hours x $3. That benefit is gone as of March 13th if his union contract is voided by Governor Walker’s bill.
His plan, as is, is to retire in two years when he reaches 67, but from the numbers he’s run, it makes far more sense for him to just retire if this bill passes because he doesn’t stand to make a significant amount of money after the hit. There’s far more motivation for him to retire at 65 prior to March 13th of this year, cash out his benefits, and find a new job in the private sector (because my dad is a workaholic and wouldn’t know what to do with himself if he simply retired).
He has already had several people at his institution declare their retirement over this bill, and with the large number of retirements they’ve already had since Jan. 1st and the number they expect will retire prior to March 13th, all of the key positions will be vacant. School Supervisor, Supervisors, IT Head Cheese, 25% of the teaching positions — there will hardly be anyone around to run the school.
The are also several caveats of the bill that hit some people especially hard. Correctional officers, as per their union contracts, receive a uniform allowance (because each uniform runs ~$250 and each officer probably wants 3-4 at anytime). In a given year, an officer may go through several uniforms as they will wear out, get torn (and bloodied) up and such, so now each officer would have to pay for their own uniforms, costing them out-of-pocket around $1000 a year. If you’re a corrections officer making $25k a year before taxes, that $1000 a year out-of-pocket and the extra costs associated with having to pay the higher healthcare premiums stipulated in the bill really cut into your bottom line and your quality of life.
Another oddity is that the bill allows administrative staff members to be moved anywhere in the state at anytime for any reason to any department. This exists as is, but only within departments. So if some head cheese at Prison A retires, another person can be moved in from Prison B to fill the position immediately to keep the wheels on the wagon.
What this bill does is it allows an administrator from Prison A (we’ll say in Madison for this example) to moved to any department, anywhere in the state — they could end up being pushed into a DNR office in Superior. There’s no negotiating, no compensation — an administrator can be told they have to report to work for any administrative position at a moment’s notice to any location in the state — if they are unable to they can be fired. So if someone wants to subversively push someone out of their position, all they have to do is tell them they need to report to a different location doing a different job on the other side of the state and if that person doesn’t do so, the state has grounds to fire them.
Another unintended consequence of this bill is that not only will it force people into early retirement, but many schools and other state facilities have policies in place where if a person retires within 5 years prior to their intended date of retirement, they receive anywhere between 25%-50% of their salary. That offer is good when only a few people take it up because as older (more expensive) people retire, younger (far less expensive) people can be put on the payroll to replace them. Should a large wave of people start retiring early, many of these places will have to pay up a very large sum of money as a result.
Several days before my father started working at the juvenile correctional facility that he works at, he actually saw the National Guard brought in to manage the institution. Teachers had their contracts worked out but officers did not. He said that one of the roughest things for him to see then was the people who still showed up for work during that strike because they had to cross the picket lines and were subject to their coworkers beating on their car windows but were forced to continue working because they needed the money. For well over a decade later, people remembered exactly who went on strike and exactly who didn’t, and the resentment that those people felt towards each other during that strike will never fully go away.
This proposed bill is a fast approaching train-wreck. The unintended consequences will cost the state a lot of money and will make life for those who stay in their jobs unbearable. The bill is so bad that it makes certain and imminent unemployment a much better financial decision for people not quite ready to retire than staying in their existing positions. It’ll bring with it a sudden wave of inexperienced and unprotected workers who will be put in charge of holding the state together at the seams for lack of anyone experienced being willing to stay in their existing jobs.