Yesterday, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that the state of Wisconsin has implemented the public-employee union reforms passed by the state legislature and published over the weekend in defiance of a restraining order. That means dues for unions will not be collected from paychecks, but higher contributions for pensions and health insurance will (via Legal Insurrection):
Gov. Scott Walker’s administration no longer is collecting dues on behalf of state unions and, as of Sunday, is charging employees more for their pensions and health care, even though nonpartisan legislative attorneys say the changes are not yet law.
Backing up the administration, the state Department of Justice argued that the new law – which eliminates most collective bargaining for public workers – is in effect and asked a judge to vacate a restraining order against the law. Meanwhile, a Dane County prosecutor asked a judge to declare that the law is not now in place.
Highlighting the different legal interpretations, some local governments are not implementing the new law for their employees. Officials with the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County said they are waiting for answers from courts before making any changes on benefits and union dues.
If the change in dues collections outweigh the higher contributions for benefits, that puts Democrats in a tough position, says William Jacobson:
With the law now in effect and paychecks getting an increase since union dues are not being withheld, Democrats are the party arguing for a reduction in state worker paychecks.
It’s also unlikely that all those workers will voluntarily contribute their dues to the unions. Some might, especially those who showed up in Madison to protest the legislature, but even that only amounts to the low five figures. Even a temporary interruption in dues will hamstring the PEUs in Wisconsin, and the longer it goes, the worse off they will be.
It also makes it more difficult for Democrats to reverse the reforms when they get a majority in the legislature and a Democratic governor. While the union bosses will want the state to start doing mandatory collections again, as William points out, it will force Democrats to be the party who lowered take-home pay for state workers. That’s not likely to make them terribly popular, even in the public sector.
Both sides are in front of Judge Sumi again today, and Ann Althouse and Meade keeping a close eye on the proceedings. Stay tuned, but don’t expect this to be over until the state Supreme Court rules on it.