Wisconsin Public Employees Feel The Pinch of New Law

Wisconsin’s controversial collective bargaining law took effect today, and many public employees will feel the immediate pinch in their pay checks.

The law, officially Wisconsin Act 10, was published Tuesday by the state’s attorney general.

It limits collective bargaining on all but issues involving pay for most public workers, except for police and firefighters. It also requires employees to pay more for health care coverage and pensions. I talked about the new Wisconsin law with our friends at PBS Newshour.

For many public employees, the impact of the new law will be an 8 percent pay cut. Some communities negotiated new contracts with teachers and other employees before the law took effect. Those contracts will remain in force.

But employees where contracts have expired will be bound by the new law in any new agreements that are reached. Read Changing Gears’ Wisconsin coverage here.

The Wisconsin law has a turbulent history that included a standoff in the state Senate, protests that brought throngs of supporters and opponents to Madison, and a legal challenge that went to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Opponents of the law are talking about a federal court battle, but legal experts say they may face an uphill battle because the law applies specifically to Wisconsin, not to other states.

This week, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the architect of the new law, signed the state’s new $66 billion budget that includes $800 million in cuts. But he also vetoed a series of provisions in the budget.

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