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Wisconsin public workers face huge wage cut after Scott Walker, GOP attacks land in paychecks

[Editor's Note: The following article appeared first on Daily Kos as "$500 a month less ..." (Daily Kos, Sept. 4, 2011, http://www.dailykos.com /story/2011/09/04/1011002 /-$500-a-month-less- and is reprinted here after we received it via Portside. Thanks to those who wrote the piece and those who forwarded it to Substance. As a general rule, Substance does not allow anonymous or pseudonymous stories, but in the case of those now living under the dictatorship of Scott Walker and the Wisconsin Republican Party we are making an exception. We'd also like to note that Substance is going to ask for consideration about giving the first Scott Walker Award to Rahm Emanuel. The award, a wolf in sheep's clothing behind which crouches a Barack Obama bobblehead, will be given as often as necessary to the "Democrat" who is most completely pushing the union busting, teacher bashing and privatizing agenda of the American Ruling Class].

Last week, public employees in the State of Wisconsin received their first paychecks where additional funds were taken out to pay for health and retirement benefits. A good friend and classmate of mine is a state employee, as is her husband. Below is her story.

Sally (the names have been changed to protect the innocent) is a wonderful writer—we are both in the same writing/communications program at the University of Wisconsin. Her words will tell this story and I will leave some commentary to frame the issues.

This week I got a pay cut for doing a good job. I am one of the thousands of state employees who have been affected by Governor Walker’s budget bill. I know that state workers have a better situation than many others out there, and I know I am fortunate, but it still feels like I’m being punished for a crime I didn’t commit. My husband works at the same organization, so we’re both

getting hit. Between the two of us, we will be taking home $500 less a month. That’s Five. Hundred. Dollars. What would happen to your family if you took home $6,000 less a year?

How many of us could absorb a $500 a month pay cut? I know I could not.

Because of this pay cut, everyday living will erode our rainy day fund. We’re already frugal. We already don’t vacation. We already aren’t able to afford repairs and maintenance for our home. We take home-packed lunches, ride share, and rarely eat out. We don’t even have cable. If we weren’t already always careful...if we had kids...if we were to have one big emergency...we’d be

cooked. I wonder how many people this moves to the one paycheck from disaster category. People who never thought they would be in this position.

I work in my organization as a department associate. Basically, that means I have all the responsibilities of running the department office without a fancy title or decent salary. I’ve been working in this job for a little over two years, but have worked for this organization for four years. I spend my days solving people’s problems, dealing with everything from life-threatening medical emergencies to requests for office supplies. Last year I only supported one person, but my boss retired, and the duties were split between three people, Now I have triple the number of people who I directly support—along with any request, question or emergency that walks through my door. This happens in both the private sector and the public sector these days. Job responsibilities increase—yet pay stays the same or, in the case of Wisconsin workers, decreases.

My bachelor’s degree is in communication. I worked as a

marketing professional for fifteen years before being

laid off. I took the state job exam and landed a

permanent position after working six months as a

limited term employee (temp). Because of my experience,

30% of my job duties entail communication tasks. I am

halfway through a master’s degree in communication. It

is not unusual for people in a similar level position

to have advanced degrees—and still be working an office

job. It’s a classic case of being over-educated and

underemployed. Taking a lower wage was worth it because

the benefits made up for the lack of pay. Not anymore.

This is the case of many people in public service. They

were willing to take lower pay for better benefits and

to have the ability to help people in our state by

providing essential services.

I belong to the support staff union (WSEU) which is a

part of AFSCME. I grew up in a union household. My dad

helped form a union at a company where he was laid

off—because he was promoted to management and wasn’t

covered by the union. My mom was the union steward for

her organization for many years. She fought tooth and

nail for people to be treated decently and to earn a

fair wage. When people are stripped of more than 10% of

their take home pay in one fell swoop, it makes it seem

as if my parents fought for nothing.

According to the Census Bureau, there are 56,957 state

and local workers in Wisconsin. We’re looking at more

than $20,000,000 in disposable income vanishing all at

once. Taking that much spending power away is going to

hurt every single community around the state. It might

look like savings, but it’s just making every business

in every town take a hit and vilifying state workers in

the process. Emphasis mine. The point Sally makes in

her last paragraph is an important one that shows how

shortsighted Scott Walker's austerity measures really

are. You cannot take $20,000,000 out of the economy and

expect lollipops, sugar plums and rainbow fairies to

boost spending. This will have a detrimental impact on

Wisconsin's economy.

I have very little hope for the state system. I am

already looking for other jobs out in the corporate

world where I can get paid twice as much as I do in my

present job. With as little incentive as state jobs now

provide, all of us overeducated underemployed people

are going to be back out on the market. And we’re going

to have the competitive edge. I admire Sally's

optimism; however, with the unemployment rate being

what it is I do not know how successful she will be in

moving back into the private sector with the job market

being in shambles and now with even more consumer

demand being taken out of the mix due to government

austerity measures.

I close with this: Ask yourself, what would you do if

you had your income cut by $500 a month?



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