As the standoff in Wisconsin drags on with no end in sight, Republican Gov. Scott Walker continues to make his case about the fiscal implications of collective bargaining. His office highlighted some of the most outrageous benefits and behavior that public-sector unions have institutionalized through collective bargaining.
The case of Milwaukee teacher Megan Sampson is a classic example. Less than a week after the Wisconsin Council of English Teachers named Sampson its “Outstanding First Year Teacher,” she lost her job. The cause? Sampson got the pink slip because she lacked seniority.
The school’s collective bargaining agreement left no choice. Decisions had to be based on seniority rather than merit.
Sampson’s case was made worse because the teachers’ union refused to accept a lower-cost health care plan. Sampson told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Given the opportunity, of course I would switch to a different plan to save my job, or the jobs of 10 other teachers.”
On the other end of the spectrum is a Cedarburg, Wis., teacher who was fired for viewing pornography — only to be reinstated by an arbitrator, a result of collective bargaining. In this case, it took a costly, taxpayer-funded legal battle that went all the way to the Wisconsin Supreme Court before the teacher was finally terminated.
Unions have also displayed a territorial bent that borders on absurdity. A Wausau, Wis., public employee union stopped an 86-year-old resident from being a volunteer crossing guard. WAOW-TV reported that union representatives didn’t want the man volunteering because it weakened their case to hire a unionized worker instead.
In another case, a Racine, Wis., public employee filed a grievance because inmates were cutting the grass free of charge. The union worker claimed it was the “right” for government workers to cut the grass, according to the Racine Journal Times.
The salaries and benefits of public workers have soared to levels unthinkable in the private sector because government negotiators bargain with taxpayer money, not their own. It’s happening at the Green Bay School District, which secured an agreement that allows a teacher to retire and receive a full year’s salary for only 30 days of work, according to WLUK-TV.
Meanwhile, in the city of Madison, Wis., a host of bus drivers and correctional officers are earning more than $100,000 per year. In fact, the single highest-paid employee in Madison was a bus driver who earned $159,258 in 2009, reported the Wisconsin State Journal.
These are just a few of the more outrageous examples resulting from collective bargaining. And even though unions deny there is a financial connection, Walker’s office continues to showcase the evidence.
Matthew McKillip is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation.