MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has offered to keep certain collective bargaining rights in place for state workers in a proposed compromise aimed at ending a nearly three-week standoff with absent Senate Democrats, according to e-mails released Tuesday by his office.
The e-mails, some dated as recently as Sunday, show a softened stance in Walker’s talks with the 14 Democrats who fled to Illinois to block a vote on his original proposal that would strip nearly all collective bargaining rights for public workers and force concessions amounting to an average 8 percent pay cut.
Under the compromise floated by Walker and detailed in the e-mails, workers would be able to continue bargaining over their salaries with no limit, a change from his original plan that banned negotiated salary increases beyond inflation. He also proposed compromises allowing collective bargaining to stay in place on mandatory overtime, performance bonuses, hazardous duty pay and classroom size for teachers.
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Walker also proposed allowing collective bargaining agreements to last up to two years, instead of the one-year limit in his original proposal. Unions would only have to vote to remain in existence every three years, instead of annually as Walker initially proposed.
Additionally, University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics Authority employees would not lose all union bargaining rights and the Legislature’s budget committee would have to vote to approve any changes to Medicaid programs sought by Walker’s administration. Under the original bill, the Department of Health Services could make cuts and other changes to programs benefiting the poor, elderly and disabled without requiring a hearing or vote by the legislative committee.
This could be a gambit. Walker floats a substantive compromise, but one he knows will be unacceptable to the unions — a maneuver to shift public opinion. Who knows.