HELLO FROM EAU CLAIRE, WISCONSIN - merchants slogan: "We don't have it but we can get it for you."

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Ever since Governor Walker announced his intention to strip every public employee in Wisconsin of their collective bargaining rights there has been a lot of activity. The protests and recalls have garnered national attention and a lot of love and support from Kossacks. However, there is activity which no one but insiders have noticed.

Retirement offices in every state, county, city, town, and village have been flooded with public employees who want to retire before the bill goes into effect. Nearly everyone eligible to retire wants to lock in their retirement before the loss of collective bargaining takes its toll on their retirement benefits. Without collective bargaining, public employees will not be able to negotiate the sustainment of their current retirement benefits and they can be unilaterally changed at any time.

We know that Walker isn't done peeling wages and benefits away from state workers. Stripping their collective bargaining rights is only the first step. Without unions, Walker will be able to dictate wages, pensions, and benefits for every state worker. Other public employees, who will be able to negotiate wages only (up to the cost of living and no more), can have their pensions, benefits and working conditions reduced at the whim of their municipal officials. Some mayors and county executives might be more than happy to balance their budgets, too, on the backs of their employees.

As a result, the retirement offices are very, very busy. Then the blowback begins.

State and municipal employers will be losing a large number of experienced staff in one fell swoop. Certainly they will still have employees in the workforce who are not eligible for retirement, but imagine losing a third of your staff that is the most experienced and knowledgable and losing them at the same time.
As an aside to those public employees who are retiring in Wisconsin, I want to let you know that while you are locking in your retirement benefits before they become unilaterally changed, you are not completely safe from future changes. Municipalities have tried to change benefits for retirees in the past, but have been prevented from doing so by a Wisconsin State Supreme Court decision that no changes can be made for those already retired. You may have noticed the major effort to pack right wing judges onto the Wisconsin State Supreme Court over the past several years. Should there be success in tilting the court, I wouldn't put it past Scott Walker or others to try to get that decision reversed.


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