When Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin introduced his anti-union, anti-collective bargaining legislation in early 2011, Walker made the strategic decision of exempting police and firefighters from the new rules. Many police precincts and fire houses joined their fellow unionized brethren in protest anyway however, and apparently they did so for good reason.
It turns out a loophole in Scott Walker’s legislation has granted local governments the power to effectively blackmail the supposedly-exempted police and firefighters unions into paying more for their pensions.
Wisconsin police and firefighters were supposed to escape higher pension and health care costs imposed on other public workers through Gov. Scott Walker’s contentious collective bargaining law. But the state’s largest police union says local governments statewide have found another way to make them pay up: threaten huge health insurance cost increases if they don’t start contributing to their retirement funds.
The Wisconsin Professional Police Association contends local governments are taking advantage of a state budget clause that allows municipalities to dictate the form of public safety workers’ health insurance plans. The WPPA told The Associated Press local leaders are using their new power to set up exorbitant deductibles for police and firefighters if they don’t agree to contribute to pensions. [...]
WPPA Executive Director Jim Palmer likened the municipalities’ tactics to blackmail.
“These employers tell their officers that unless you agree to pay this, we will make health insurance nearly unaffordable for you and your families,” Palmer said.
For all the Republican complaining about supposed “union strong-arming” and “union thuggery,” this is pretty dirty. Leveraging the prospect of losing your healthcare as a tool to force employees to pay more for their pensions. No real negotiating. Just simple extortion.
Many of the police and firefighters facing this new reality are probably among those who will see a tax increase in 2012 while corporations see a massive tax cut.