Wisconsin’s ChoicePosted: February 12, 2011
I’m sure many of our readers are quite well versed in the political happenings of the last few days but to offer a brief recap:
- Governor Walker proposed his Budget Repair Bill (highlights HERE)
- Increases public union contributions to healthcare packages
- Limits ability to collectively bargain
Why am I writing about this? How is this a student and campus issue? Well, our graduate students, faculty, and staff are ALL directly affected as “public unions” and therefore have a large stake in this piece of legislation.
Our school competes GLOBALLY for graduate talent. This competititon allows us to have some of the best and brightest minds attend our school, pulling them from powerhouses like Harvard and Berkeley and driving us up in the national rankings which in turn helps us get more top students. It’s an awesome cycle: provided that you are on the positive end of this cycle. Top graduate students make top Teaching and Research assistants and that is how the majority of undergraduate education is conducted.
Removing the rights of organizations like the Teaching Assistant Association (TAA) to collectively bargain effectively strips MOST of the power from this body; a body which previously has bargained for tremendous positives such as tuition remission, fair research and working standards, and equitable health care buy in options that is especially important for TA’s with a family.
So, if our benefit package for being a TA is reduced or eliminated, where are these folks heading? That’s right elsewhere. Which drives down the research output for our school (which is over $1 billion annually bee-tee-dubs) and also reduces our edcuational standards by having lower quality educators in our classrooms.
So, plainly, this is LOSE-LOSE for Wisconsin. I don’t really care about the other unions as that’s not my purview. Students and the this campus are, however, and I will fight for that with every breath I have.
Here’s the plan.
Monday: I ❤ the UW campaign delivers Valentine’s cards to Governor Walker’s office.
Tuesday: 11 am: Rally at the capital (Be there!)
Tuesday: 1 pm: Lobby visits!
Tuesday: 7pm Student Reps (All the Presidents and Vice-Presidents of the UW student governments) Press Conference condemning the assault on the UW
Wednesday: Repeat Tuesday
I’ve maintained my entire career as a student advocate that there is a time and a place to put boots on the ground and march and this is the first time that I have felt 100% sure that its the best course.
Let’s do this.
UPDATE 3:11 CST 2/12/11
The following is an email sent to administration from Brandon and I asking for help and confirmation that they are indeed doing something.
As you know, Governor Walker’s most recent proposed budget repair bill will significantly affect the state employees of this University. We, on behalf of the Associated Students of Madison and the students of this campus, are greatly concerned about the ramifications of this bill. The bill will severely limit the collective bargaining capabilities of faculty and students on our campus, take away many benefits for limited term employees (LTEs), and double the amount that state employees pay for health care, on average.
There are currently 9,116 graduate students on campus, including over 5,000 Project Assistants, Research Assistants, and Teaching Assistants. Under Governor Walker’s proposal, the collective bargaining rights of these students is all but eliminated. It was through collective bargaining units in Wisconsin that graduate students were able to win some major victories for the quality of employment and life in Wisconsin. Through bargaining, graduate students secured tuition remissions, fair employment language that limits the amount of work a professor can demand of teaching assistants,and buy in options for health insurance. Without these successes, the quality of graduate students that we attract would be greatly reduced.
Further, our undergraduate learning experience will be seriously impacted by Governor Walker’s proposal. The bill affects Limited Term Employees by removing health coverage benefits. With the proposed changes to pension and health insurance coverage, our full time employees are also facing what is functionally an average pay cut of 8.4 percent. These changes will drastically diminish the undergraduate and graduate experience.
As you’ve said, UW Madison competes with academia on the global level. We are constantly competing to attract the highest quality candidates for teaching and learning. Without the aforementioned merits of this institution, our ability to recruit top tier students and staff will be seriously hindered. The reputation of our fine University is not enough to maintain our rankings in the absence of the real benefits that are lost with this proposal.
For the reasons mentioned above, we see this as a direct attack on the quality of education at our state’s flagship University. It is therefore prudent for us to join together to counter these proposed changes. What will your office be doing in the coming days as this bill goes to the legislature? How can we work together to ensure that the the quality of our prestigious University?
Additionally, I sent several texts back and forth with Dean of Students Lori Berquam regarding the bill and asking for their stances, more info to come once Don Nelson (Government Relations specialist) finishes reviewing all 144 pages of the bill.
11-13832 Budget Repair Bill Click here for the entire text of the 144 page bill. It’s a light read 🙂 Thanks United Council for forwarding me the document!
Chancellor Martin’s Response here!