Reality Check: MN Public Workers And Their WI Counterparts

By Pat Kessler, WCCO-TV

Republican leaders in Minnesota say they’re not focused on legislation to remove collective bargaining rights. However, Minnesota public workers have some of the same issues as their counterparts in the Badger State.

Minnesota has many different unions representing hundreds of thousands of public workers.

IN FACT, the sizes of our two state workforces are almost equal. 284,317 in Wisconsin. 283,351 in Minnesota.

In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker is demanding public workers boost their pension contributions from 0 percent to 5 percent. In Minnesota, on the other hand, the 43,000 members of AFSCME already contribute 5.0 percent.

Wisconsin is also asking its public workers to increase health care contributions from 6 percent to 12 percent. Minnesota AFSCME workers already contribute 15 percent.

Unlike Wisconsin, there is no bill in Minnesota to remove the right of workers to collective bargaining. However, Republicans, who control the House and Senate, said public employees should expect wage freezes and pension cuts to balance the budget.

“We are going to have to look at public employees,” said Senator Amy Koch, (R-Buffalo), the Republican Majority Leader.

“And whether it is wage freezes, whether it’s pensions– these things are going to have to be looked at.”

There are similar cost-cutting efforts underway by other Republican governors like Chris Christie in New Jersey and John Kasich in Ohio.

It’s not the cost cutting efforts, however, that appear to be sparking such an outcry. It’s Wisconsin’s effort to abolish public employee unions.

That’s Reality Check.

More from Pat Kessler
  • Woody

    Here is what you need to know There are two parts to compensation–salary and fringes. In the WI higher education system salaries are lower that most of their neighbors including MN. This has been a known trade off–lower salaries for better benefits.Some on the lower end of the pay scale are looking at a 15%+ reduction in take home pay. That is reality check. Posted by a MN resident interested in fair play.

    • Broke

      Woody, I guess I would rather have a 15% cut in pay versus NO JOB !!! Like millions of other Americans.

      • Justin

        In that case you can work for nothing and that is what these people want. I mean at least you will have a job then?

      • there's a reason he's broke

        hahaha, i wonder if people think first before writing comments??? hahahaha….

      • PAUL

        Broke maybe EVERONE should take a pay cut NOT just the PUBLIC EMPLOYEES we shouldn’t try and balance the budget on the backs of ONLY the public employees we ALL live here and we are ALL RESPONABLE FOR THE STATE BUDGET!!!!!!

      • Educated Minnesotan

        I’m confused why private sector employees should take a pay cut? if Target (for example) can manage it’s budget, why the hell should it’s employees suffer, just because the government doesn’t know how to effectively manage it’s money?

        oh, and maybe you should look at your prized Democrat governor. You know, the same one who stashed all his money in SD to avoid paying taxes on it. hypocritical, much?

  • Jon

    Adjustments need to be made on income and benefits,but negotiate,don’t dictate.that’s the American way.this should be about economics, but the more we learn it’s about politics/union busting.I just heard there are seven cities named Union in Wisconsin.

    • Ignorance must be bliss

      Educated Minnesotan
      If your name were true you would know that Dayton has a blind trust, this means he has no controll over it and just collects and monthly check from it. Therfore he cannot move it or change it in any way. Your name an irony much?

  • Ralph

    It is just not true that MN Republicans want to bust the unions. They have introduced bills to have people vote each year whether they would join the union or not. The Republicans have offered “Right to Work” legislation. They want to dismantle PELRA, the collective bargaining law, one component at a time. I have no doubts, that if Emmer had been elected, there would be people camping out in St. Paul as well, Very scary stuff, if you are at all interested keeping quality people in education.

    • DeadGuy

      Why should I be forced to join a union just to keep food on the table if I don’t want to. And if a I work at a place that is unionized and I’m not a member, why should I have to pay union dues?


  • Michele

    I used to work in a government office, and my supervisor was a bully. From what I hear, she’s still a bully. The only thing reining her in, has been the union. Otherwise, the county would have lost good workers, and good people would have lost their living wage, simply because this person brings her baggage to work. And eventually, the taxpayers would have paid for her self-indulgence.

    I do think that people should get to decide if they want to belong to a union. But I don’t think that unions are outdated. I don’t believe that management, be it in the private or public sector, can be relied upon to consider the rights and needs of the workers.

    Also, Broke, a job doesn’t help if it doesn’t pay for the roof over your head or the food on your table. In fact, it might make the situation worse, because then you’re paying for transportation, clothing, etc., for a job that doesn’t pay for itself. What kind of help is that?

    • Educated Minnesotan

      I also used to work for a government office. My coworker was a completely jerk, and a lazy one at that. He was rude to everyone, coworkers and clients/customers included.

      However, he was a full-fledged Union member, so he kept his job. How many horrible teachers have you seen that couldn’t be fired, because they were union? It goes both ways.

      I do, completely agree with you on the choice though. But, union bosses don’t want to allow their employees to vote on unionization. They know that employees will quickly realize they don’t need the union, and then…. bye bye union.

  • Gary

    Why do our polticion’s hate us?!!?!??!

  • Gary

    Why does the majority elect the minority too represent the majority. with the knowlege we have todayConresss is obsolete?

  • Pablo


  • Olga

    What people do not realize is that these efforts to remove the collective bargaining is essentially removing the power of the little people”. Republicans have for decades misrepresented themselves into having people believe they are for middle class, but the opposite is true. All you have to do is go back to the Reagan days and see how much power he removed from the “little people”. The idea that most Republicans, not all, but this political force believes that if we give tax breaks to the corporations and big companies, then they in turn will give back to their employees or “little people.” Now if you trust big companies and corporations, that is great. But as we all have seen with the recent banking fiasco- we simply cannot. Corporations are in it for themselves and not their employees, they are only accountable to the powerful big money shareholders. I would encourage people to look at their politicians and keep them in check to represent all of us or the middle class. During Reagan days, we had the highest unemployment rates, simply because he went after unions, gave tax breaks to business, large and small ( I argue against large) and removed tax breaks to the middle class. People wise up!

    • Eyes wide open

      Thank you. I’ve tried discussing this with my co-workers and friends. They think it’s all about pay and benefits but they can’t see the overall picture. Unions make employees stronger as a whole. What does that mean for us little workers that aren’t part of any union?

      • An average Mark

        It means that if the unions are thrown out, you’re really in for it then!!

      • DeadGuy

        I have a 4 year degree; I am not part of management; I am not now or never have been a union member. I don’t own my own business. I earn 135K/yr. I’ve been working at this company for almost 19 years now, all without a union.

        Now what was that you were saying about unions make workers stronger??


  • Elim

    Eliminate the part of the bill which eliminates collective-bargaining rights. Then, increase the pension and healthcare employee contributions.

    Budget improved. Done.

    If you want to abolish collective bargaining, do it when there is a surplus.

    • Paul

      Elim you are WRONG you cannot balance the budget on the backs of PUBLIC EMPLOYEES maybe you would like to contribute more too! we already pay more that our FAIR share

      • Educated Minnesotan

        I’m not trying to be argumentative, here, Paul. But I’ve genuinely always wondered where this idea that public employees “pay more than their fair share.”

        Can you explain that to me? We pay the same taxes right? Many companies in the state (country, world?) are enacting pay freezes or even pay cuts right now.

        I am a public employee, too, fyi.

  • Geroge

    I would like to see a story interviewing the everyday worker that does not want union involvement. I pay about $25 per paycheck to the union. If I didn’t join the union, I would have to pay “fair share” which is about the same amount. I haven’t gotten a raise in over 6 years and the medical benefits keep decreasing.
    The union hasn’t negotiated a decent contract in years. Ever read the contract language? It is ambiguous and vague in many areas. Then there is the subject of strikes. If unions were actually decent negotiaters, not only would we get at least raises in line with inflation, but we wouldn’t have to strike. Strikes are money lost by union workers that can never be recouped. Yet, employees of the union work and get paychecks when their negotiaions have failed and workers are left to strike.

    • Sarah Kennedy

      In the state of WI. public employees do not have the right to strike. It is unlawful to do so. Many of us are under a Mediation/Arbitration law that forces us to take any dispute we can not voluntarily settle to a Mediator who works with both parties to come to an agreement. If an agreement is not reached we go to Arbitration . The arbitrators decision is final. The unions usually win less than half of the decisions.
      While it is true that paying more for health insurance and retirement will help close our deficit, taking our rights to bargain for anything except wages does not! Making it next to impossible to operate our locals does not! Stopping us from bargaining working conditions and safety language does not! Stopping us from having just cause provisions does not.
      Our employers have their hand tied with this bill also. I have been bargaining contracts with my employer for 25 years. We have built a respectful working relationship. This will possibly destroy this. Throughout the years I have taken pay cuts, five years of freezes, layoff hours, and have already bargained a pay freeze for 2012,2013, and 2014. This was done without any of the drama that surrounds us now. Public employees are not the enemies some seem to think we are! Yes, I have good benefits but those were bargained while keeping our wages down. I made 25,000.00 last year.

    • Paul


    • Eyes Wide Open

      But that’s one union not offering good representation, not symbolic of them all. You can change you r union reps at the next election or possibly even dump that union and select another.

      • Educated Minnesotan

        That’s the problem. You can’t ‘dump that union and select another’ when you had no choice to join that union in the first place.

        I used to work in an AFSCME position. It was certainly eye-opening. The emails that went out to employees were poorly worded and so full of rhetoric it was disgusting. When I complained, I was told I had no choice but to keep receiving the emails.

        If the union is really there to represent the desires of their employees, they probably shouldn’t have blatantly told me to shut up.

        Striking is the most immature means of ‘negotiating’ tactics. What if the tables were turned? What if the employers just said “we disagree, and until you’re willing to do what we want, we’ll just close the office and not pay you.”

    • Charlie

      Before you toss over the union, it might be interesting to see what your employer would do for you without them. I’m sure they’d be MUCH more generous with pay and benefits if they didn’t have to deal with a union….

      • Educated Minnesotan

        And your take-home pay would be higher if you didn’t have to pay union dues!

  • mark from

    The Unions need to be thrown out, they are costing us to much money

    • An average Mark

      Mark, I agree that some unions cost too much money. BUT they also offer protection for the working class that they wouldn’t otherwise have. If you’ve never been in their position, it is hard to take your comments seriously. Every aspect of government is costing us too much money and yes, the unions need to take the negatives along with everybody else. But to just say throw them out tells me you’ve never been part of the working class in MN and don’t know all the facts.

    • Joe

      Do you have a good wage? Are you children working, I’m talking children that are around the age of 12? Are you working 18 to 20 hour days for little pay? Are you afraid that if you didn’t show up because you or one of your family members are ill? Would you work for less than minimum wage 7 days a week 20 hours a day? That is what Unions did for us. Think a little. Yes, some of them hurt but a majority of them did good for us. Read up on what this country was like before unions?

      • Educated Minnesotan

        I don’t think anyone is saying that unions NEVER served a purpose. They’re just no longer necessary.

        They were positive in intent, but they have served their purpose and it’s time to move on.

      • Paul Solinger

        Educated Minnesotan, if unions were to go away then we would be right back where we were before Unions came into existence. As someone who has worked in a right to work state, with it’s non-competitive wage and benefits, there is no doubt that strong unions continue to serve a valid purpose.

  • mark from

    The Unions sold out the American Worker when they tried to Unionize Illegals

    • Paul

      mark from you must be a communist rebublican, Unions have a NEED and a PLACE to keep you rebublicans from paying nothing for wages in companies the own maybe you would feel warn and fuzzy in a communist country

    • Eyes Wide Open

      Really, what was the proposed name of this union? No papers, please union? Unions are based on employment types – the jobs, not immigration status.

    • MarkNeedstoWorkforaLiving

      That wasn’t public employee unions idiot. And no, they are not all the same.

  • ED

    When Walker was campaining for governor why wasn’t he honest enough with the fine people of Wisconsin to tell them his No. 1 goal was to bust the public employees union. Just wondering.

    • paul

      he’s a rebublican dishounest is their middle name

  • Pho Ban

    I would have like to see more detail and comparisons in the Reality Check. For instance pick a job that has employee counterparts in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Federal Government employees as well as one or two large busineses. A working level Engineer would be an example that State, Federal, and large commercial companies all have. Next, how do the salaries, and the proportion of benefits that the employee must pay compare with the various employers?

    Reporting only percentages does not always tell the whole story. You have to know the salary the percentage is refering to.

    • Joe

      Good questioni Pho.

    • Educated Minnesotan

      It’s all public information (wages at least for public employees.) If you’re interested, maybe you should do some research.

      You also need to keep in mind the COL discrepancies though. It’s more expensive to live in Minneapolis, than it is to live in Madison. Wages should reflect that difference.

  • Tweets that mention Reality Check: MN Public Workers And Their WI Counterparts « CBS Minnesota --

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Minnesota Wild, Jason Motylinski. Jason Motylinski said: WCCO did a good piece comparing MN teacher benefits to the proposed concessions in WI […]

  • Some Things The GOP/Media Complex Won’t Tell You RE: Wisconsin « Mercury Rising 鳯女

    […] the Wisconsin protesters. We have CBS Minnesota’s (formerly WCCO’s) Pat Kessler doing a typical divide-and-conquer piece on how allegedly rich are Wisconsin’s public employees, but what he chooses to ignore is that […]

  • Ruth

    Why can’t their be a compromise. Why not just put a time limit on the stopping of collecting bargining, instead of cutting it out completely. Make for only 2 to 4 years.

  • Paul Solinger

    The goal of the Republicans in Wisconsin his to abolish unions, not to balance the budget. Their interest in eliminating the deficit is secondary. Democrats are willing to make concessions to balance the budget, but it’s the Republican’s stubborn attempts to remove the right to collectively bargain that has the state at a stalemate.

    • sabo33

      AMEN!! This is what was missed in the report.

  • CrazRed

    When I worked as a supervisor, I did the hiring, paid attention to how well the employees under me did their jobs, made sure they had training for the jobs they performed and made sure they had what they needed to perform their jobs to the best of their ability. I also decided if they were to receive a raise and how much of a raise. There was management over me who also received from me the reasons why an employee should or should not receive a raise.

    My raises were determined by how well I did my job and the employees’ input.

    No union was needed. If you couldn’t perform your job you didn’t get a raise and if you didn’t improve, you were released.

    Is there a way to find out how much the union bosses are making off all the public employees in different states? You realize, they get paid whether they do their job or not!

  • chris

    Your “reality check” lacks substance. It doesn’t address the issue why Governor Walker decided to make collective bargaining illegal? Any self-proclaimed political analyst/economist could look at a balance sheet and see how a state could save money buthow will this decision by the Governor affect the children of Wisconsin? Minnesota could save money if we change the school week to only 2 days but is that good for children our state? Why punish educators? Right now the Wisconsin schools are closed! Now that a Reality Check!

blog comments powered by Disqus
Thursday Night Football

Listen Live