Scott Walker’s Stealth Bomb: Act 21

April 27, 2012 By Timothy Riley

On the day after the Packers won the Super Bowl in January 2011 our current Governor gathered his inner circle to announce his intention to “drop the bomb.” The bomb was, of course, Act 10, which repealed the collective bargaining rights of public sector employees. During the course of this meeting, our current Governor shared with the gathering his belief that Reagan’s busting of the PATCO union in 1981 was directly responsible for the fall of the Berlin Wall.

WMC protest 017This is a man so profoundly lacking in intellectual curiosity, so limited in his world view, so wanting for education that he truly believes that Reagan’s union busting action caused the fall of the Berlin Wall. This little anecdote reveals much about our current Governor particularly with regard to his delusions of grandeur and his thirst for power.

In an effort to sate these delusions of grandeur and thirst for power, our current Governor proposed, and his right wing extremist colleagues in the legislature passed, Act 21 in June of 2011. Not nearly enough has been written about Act 21. This law vests in the Governor’s office all power to enact, amend and enforce administrative rules. Administrative rules have the same force and effect as statutory laws passed by the legislature. They are rules promulgated by state agencies that affect every aspect of public life from workers’ compensation to the environment; from education to transportation and wages.

Prior to Act 21, agencies had rule making authority which was subject to legislative oversight and repeal or amendment by the legislative Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules (JCRAR). As administrative agencies are part of the executive branch which in turn are presided over by the Chief Executive, the Governor, they are not empowered to legislate under the basic principles of constitutional separation of powers.

In short, the Legislature enacts the laws and the Executive branch implements and enforces the laws. The executive branch check on the legislative branch is the veto authority of the Governor. With Act 21, the Legislature ceded its authority to the Governor by vesting in that office complete authority to enact, amend or repeal administrative rules with no legislative oversight or review. Act 21 makes the Governor both legislator and Chief Executive.

WMC protest 017The danger and breadth of that power became readily apparent this week when the current Governor repealed consideration of “add-ons” in public employee compensation pay scales. The most common “add-ons” provide additional compensation for teachers who continue to pursue their education and obtain advanced degrees. Under the current system, a teacher with a Masters or Doctorate degree earns more under the pay scale structure . This pay scale structure is also commonly used in calculating wage scales for other professional level State employees.

Wielding his broad authority under Act 10 in general and his unbridled authority under Act 21 in particular, the Governor has now decreed that “add-ons” are prohibited as part of the “base wage” calculation in the pay scale structure in public employee contracts. The net effect of this new rule promulgated solely by our current Governor is a potential reduction for many teachers and other professionals of up to 30% in their wages next year.

While the edict does not require these reductions, the de-funding of education by this current Governor will likely force many school districts to employ this latest “tool” to balance their budgets. School districts have only attempted to absorb the first $800 million of the $1.6 billion in cuts to date. The second half is on its way in the fall and those additional cuts coupled with the restrictions placed on levies and property taxes will starve public education and deprive teachers of anything resembling just compensation.

That, of course, is the current Governor’s plan. He perceives the destruction of public sector unions – in particular the teachers union – as his “Reagan moment.” The defeat of his political enemies in furtherance of his thirst for power. However, instead of the fall of the Berlin Wall, we will see the destruction of public education.

If Act 10 was the “bomb”, Act 21 is the “stealth bomb”.

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6 Comments on “Scott Walker’s Stealth Bomb: Act 21”

  1. Jeff April 28, 2012 at 12:46 am #

    It’s right before our eyes, and yet we too often still fail to see it for what it is. Even this article overlooks the larger point. What I’m talking about is the wholesale, very targeted assault on ALL THINGS public education, not just the public employee unions.

    Much has been written and the pundits on the TeeVee chatter on about the “unions versus taxpayer” struggle going on in Wisconsin, and this article reinforces that meme. The Koch Bros and ALEC and the rest of the fascist money has constructed the sandbox in which to play. We all comply nicely and stay within it in this “War of the Titans: Union Thugs Against Frugal Taxpayers” construct.

    We argue the details and facts, but we fail to see the larger picture: Public Education itself is the specific target here in these actions by our “governer.” We allow the fascists to define the conversation as “union-busting pro and con” while they continue a very effective – yet obscure – assault against public education.

    “We hate teachers because they are union thugs.”

    “We will starve our public schools of their funding as a ‘tool’ in the fight against the teacher’s unions.”

    “We will drastically reduce pay for teachers to levels that we know will not support a vibrant, well-qualified supply of professionals into our public schools.”

    “We will increase funding and subsidies for private for-profit education.”

    “The Captains of Industry shall have nearly unilateral control over post-secondary education and will be sole qualifiers to sit on our Tech School Boards.”

    On and on it goes. It is all framed as a union struggle, but that ain’t the whole story here. Scott Walker was a favorite of the Bradley Foundation and the Christian Right zealots long before he became the darling of WI Mfrs. and Commerce. It’s important to remember that. Whereas both groups have common interest in defeating unions to make the path to fascism easier, Walker’s primary constituency shares an even greater antipathy toward public education. We ignore that dynamic at our peril when we allow ourselves to be drawn into the fight SOLELY upon the union/non-union axis. We must promote public education instead as the very basic building block of a sustainable democracy, and must sound the alarm loudly against those who would undermine our commitment to common education for their own nefarious reasons.

  2. Jeff April 28, 2012 at 10:00 am #

    And you are right about Walker’s almost childlike delusion in thinking Reagan’s union-busting led to the fall of the Berlin Wall. In fact, I would say that the Berlin Wall still stands today if not for the union organizing performed by Lech Walesa in Poland. Soldarnosc!

  3. Kimi April 29, 2012 at 10:28 am #

    Thank you so much for writing this, Tim! I’ve been feeling that THIS is the piece that needs to get out there, loud and clear, and you were apparently the right person to do just that. Clear, thorough, and informative.

    I’m sure there are Republicans and Independents who think union members are thugs, teachers are whiners, and environmentalists are dirty hippies — but who also hold our democratic processes, open government, and checks & balances near and dear.

    Act 21 needs to be publicized and emphasized. Outrage against this extreme power grab should be universal among all non-fascists, and an area of wide consensus.

  4. Gwenyth May 16, 2016 at 5:46 pm #

    Timothy Riley, I am proud of you for exposing the deeper truth of the Walker underworld.

  5. Thea Dingo May 17, 2016 at 11:18 am #

    Why doesn’t WCM show the DATE articles are published? This would be helpful info when deciding whether or not to share an article on FB or Twitter, eye.

    • Barbara With May 20, 2016 at 11:49 am #

      We went through a major website overhaul somewhere in year two and we lost some of that information, and probably were not consistent with dating things back then. I have dated my stuff for a long time but sometimes we have missed updating. I just did for this one. Thanks.

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