Thursday, July 4, 2019

What Has Act 10 Cost You - The Milwaukee County Edition

Let me start this post with two sentences that I never, ever thought I would say in my life, especially as a public sector worker:

The first one is:
Thank you, Scott Walker!
Ooh, that was painful!  OK, the next one is:
Thank you, Chris Abele!
Ugh! I'm never going to get rid of this rotten taste in my mouth!

No, I haven't gone stark raving mad.  I actually have a valid reason for those statements.

To explain, let me remind the gentle reader of something that I have reported on in the past, which is how Walker's Act 10 would have a particularly detrimental effect on Milwaukee County taxpayers:
In 1991, Milwaukee County enacted the "Rule of 75," which meant that when an employee whose age and years of service totaled 75, they were eligible to retire with full pension benefits. However, this rule only applied to non-union represented employees or represented employees that were hired in 1993 or earlier. Represented employees weren't eligible for full benefits until they reached the age of 60 or 64, depending on their date of hire.

When Act 10 was enacted, AFSCME, the union representing public sector workers, chose not to play the Republicans' union busting games and didn't bother holding a vote to recertify. Their contention was that only the unions could decertify themselves and AFSCME wasn't about to do that. Thus, Milwaukee County chose to not recognize the union and claimed that all of its members were now non-represented.

This meant that over 1,000 employees suddenly became eligible for the Rule of 75.

Recognizing this loophole, the county then passed a resolution which basically said that if the employee wasn't eligible for the Rule of 75 then, they weren't eligible for it now.

AFSCME filed a class action lawsuit, arguing that the previously represented employees were now eligible. In other words, the county was trying to have it both ways.
AFSCME had won that lawsuit in 2016.

As I had predicted at the time, Abele appealed it. He lost a second time in 2017.

So Abele then appealed it again to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. I'm sure that Abele thought it would be a slam dunk for him, given how friendly he is with the conservatives, especially his "special friend," Rebecca Bradley.

I would have loved to see his face when the Supreme Court issued their decision in favor of the workers. Especially when the court's ruling was written by Bradley herself:
The Wisconsin Supreme Court delivered a victory Tuesday to a group of Milwaukee County employees, allowing them to take advantage of early retirement benefits that county officials say they didn't mean to give them.

The 5-2 decision is expected to worsen the county's long-term pension liability by $6.8 million, according to a 2016 report. That would force the county to contribute more than $800,000 a year for 20 years to cover the liability.
So, you can see, while I would have much preferred to have had my rights as a worker left intact, there was a silver lining to the whole debacle. To make it even sweeter for me, because of Abele's stalling tactics, not only was I eligible to retire, I was eligible for a modest backdrop - sorry Daniel Bice and Mark Murphy, not enough for you to start frothing at the mouth like you like to do - but enough to make up for a large hunk of the money Walker and Abele stole from me over the past seven years.

Last Friday, I retired as a Milwaukee County worker of more than 24 years.

All that said, as a taxpayer, I am considerably less than thrilled about this course of events.  According to the paper, the cost of all the eligible people retiring would be about $7 million dollars.  I would love to know how Abele came up with that number since there is no way for him to really know.  The County irretrievably lost parts of workers' records in 2013, when Abele, through his negligence, set the Courthouse on fire. He has no way of knowing even who is eligible to retire due to the ruling, much less how much it might cost. 

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