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LABOR ASSOCIATION OF WISCONSIN, INC

11430 West Bluemound Road, Suite 104
Wauwatosa, WI 63226
T (414) 476-6000
F (414) 476-6015
E law@law-inc-wi.com

 

N116 W16033 Main Street
Germantown, WI 53022
United States

262-946-4000

The Labor Association of Wisconsin, Inc., is a 21st Century labor relations firm and has been representing public employees throughout the state of Wisconsin since 1985.

L.A.W., Inc provides  labor representation specializing in law enforcement.  Our Full Service plan, offers representation in collective bargaining, grievance handling, discipline, prohibited practice complaints, unit clarification, declaratory ruling and any other hearing before the WERC among other benefits provided by LAW.  Contact us for more information.

News and Updates

News and information updates for LAW, Inc. association members.

WRS Contribution Rates to Decrease in 2018

Debbie Plunkett

Contributions paid by Wisconsin Retirement System employees will decrease slightly for most individuals, effective January 1, 2018.

Total 2018 contribution rates, expressed as a percentage of salary, are indicated in the table below.

The 2018 rate changes are primarily due to higher favorable WRS Trust Fund investment performance. In general, when trust fund investment earnings are greater than expected, contribution rates may decrease the following year. When earnings are lower than expected, rates may increase to make up for the shortfall.

Changes in WRS contribution rates are designed to be stable, with investment returns for the Core Fund smoothed over a five-year period.

WRS contribution rates are set annually by the ETF Board, upon review of its consulting actuary’s annual valuation of the system and its funding requirements. The total rates are generally split evenly between employees and employers and adjusted annually. Contributions are paid in full, ensuring full funding of future WRS benefits

 

Rusk County Sheriff's Deputy Dan Glaze fatally shot

Debbie Plunkett

Rusk County Sheriff's Deputy Dan Glaze, was fatally shot late Saturday night in western Wisconsin, and authorities said Sunday they have arrested a 43-year-old suspect.  The Labor Association of Wisconsin (LAW) sends our deepest condolences to the family of Deputy Glaze and to entire Rusk County Sheriff’s Department.  LAW would ask that you please keep the family of the fallen officer and the men and women of the Rusk County Sheriff’s Department in your prayers

Employee Trust Funds Board Announces 2017 WRS Contribution Rates

Debbie Plunkett

At its June 23, 2016 meeting, the Employee Trust Funds Board approved Wisconsin Retirement System contribution rates for 2017, including rates for Wis. Stat. § 40.65 protective occupation duty disability and the State Accumulated Sick Leave Conversion Credit Program (state employers only). These rates are based on current benefit levels and recommendations from the Board’s independent consulting actuary.

Employers who have either elected to increase prior service coverage or pay off their unfunded liability balances may also experience a change in their prior service rates.

Factors Impacting WRS Rates

There are many complex factors that affect WRS contribution rates, such as investment performance, legislative adjustments to benefit levels, demographics, etc. It is important to remember, WRS investment experience is smoothed over a course of five years to prevent large swings in WRS contribution rates.

WRS rates are increasing in 2017 due to increases in life expectancy and low investment returns.

2011 Wisconsin Acts 10 and 32 in most cases prohibited WRS employers from paying the employee-required portion of the WRS contribution. The 2017 rate change will be split equally between the employee and employer for general employees, executives, elected officials and judges for 2017. Act 10 requires that the employee-required contribution for protective occupation employees be equal to the employee-required contribution for general employees.

The annual actuarial valuation incorporates current economic and demographic data into the existing financial condition of the WRS in order to set new contribution rates for the system. It is normal for contribution rates to fluctuate somewhat from year to year, based on investment earnings, wage inflation and demographic trends. In addition, the change in contribution rates may vary between employment categories, depending on varying demographic trends within those groups. Benefits being paid to current annuitants are not affected by these rate changes.

 

ETF Board Announces 2016 WRS Contribution Rates

Debbie Plunkett

Department of Employee Trust Funds 
June 25, 2015

WRS Required Contributions to Decrease in 2016

Contribution rates for most Wisconsin Retirement System employers and employees will decrease for 2016. The following rate changes were recommended by the WRS consulting actuary in its annual valuation of the system and approved by the Employee Trust Funds Board today:

Why are contribution rates decreasing?
While many complex factors affect WRS contribution rates, the decrease is primarily due to trust fund investment gains experienced over the past five years (2010-2014).

Contribution rate changes, whether increases or decreases, are considered normal for retirement systems that have defined benefits. The rates, effective January 1, 2016, are expressed as a percentage of pay and are shown below.

Note: Contribution rates may be different for employees who have collective bargaining agreements. Other mandatory employer contributions for duty disability, the state's Accumulated Sick Leave Conversion Credit Program, or unfunded liabilities are not included and vary by employer.

 

Protective Status for Corrections Officers in Question

Debbie Plunkett

Brown County Board members are getting fired up over a bill being circulated in Madison.

It addresses a mass exodus of corrections officers at county jails, including the jail in Brown County.

Brown County supervisors are trying to fix the problem but fear it’s falling on deaf ears.

Since the beginning of 2013, the Brown County Sheriff’s Office says 31 corrections officers have left, most for similar jobs, but often for ones where they receive “protective status.”

That means they have the same kind of retirement options and duty-incurred disability benefits that active police officers have.

County corrections officers had that until lawsuits following Act 10.

Without it now, jailers are saying forget that kind of work, putting Brown County at what supervisors call “a big public safety risk.”

The job description for a corrections officer at the Brown County Jail isn’t what most people would call attractive, explains Chief Deputy Todd Delain.

They deal with inmates when they’re at their worst.

“Including at times where they’re throwing bodily fluids on our correctional staff, fighting with our correctional staff, at times trying to injure our correctional staff,” says Delain.

Protective status, where officers could retire younger, helped create job stability.

Without it, the sheriff’s office says it’s paying continual overtime plus an estimated $111,000 just so far in 2015 to hire and train new officers.

“Certainly there’s a cost to protective status, but I don’t think we can afford not to do it,” says Delain.

At Wednesday morning’s Brown County Public Safety Committee meeting, supervisors stressed the importance of changing the law.

“This has no fiscal impact to the state. This should be real simple to get passed and move forward and let the counties take it on,” says Pat Buckley, Brown County Supervisor and Public Safety Committee Chair.

A bill circulating at the state capitol this week would give each county the option of paying for protective status.

Last year, the Brown County Board unanimously approved a resolution supporting it.

They’re hoping that will help pressure state lawmakers to pass the bill.

But they say some state lawmakers don’t like it, and they don’t think Brown County Executive Troy Streckenbach does either.

He wasn’t available for an on camera interview, but Streckenbach told Action Two News over the phone he’s concerned it will cost taxpayers millions.

He referred us to the county’s director of administration.

“I think right now we need to do our due diligence to take a look at the bill and see what the price tag is,” says Brown County Director of Administration Chad Weininger.

No one could tell us exactly how much reinstating protective status will cost, but supervisors say the county did not save millions when it was taken away.

Supervisors and the sheriff’s office say the bill isn’t meant to undermine Act 10, but say it would level the playing field since state corrections officers in the prison system still have protective status.

There’s a Friday deadline for lawmakers to sign on to the bill.  Representative John Macco (R – De Pere) told Action Two News late Wednesday he is signing on to the bill as a co-sponsor.

LAW supports this legislation and it is our position that Correctional Officers should be considered Protective Status employees.

Right to work bill won't affect police or firefighter unions

Debbie Plunkett

Madison -- The proposed right to work bill moving quickly through the Legislature will affect only private-sector unions. 

The proposal only affects workers in private businesses, both the language of the bill and comments from Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau show. 

The measure would prohibit unions and private businesses from reaching contracts that require workers to pay labor dues or fees. 

So police and firefighter unions in the state can still require workers to pay money to unions even if the workers choose not to join. Other public employee unions were previously barred from doing this by Gov. Scott Walker's 2011 Act 10 law. 

Fitzgerald acknowledged Friday that Republicans have considered taking this step with public safety unions as well but for now at least are not doing so.

courtesy - JSOnline

Supreme Court upholds Scott Walker Act 10 union law

Debbie Plunkett

Madison — The Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld Gov. Scott Walker's signature labor legislation Thursday, delivering an election-year affirmation to the governor in just one of the three major rulings issued by the court on union bargaining, election law and same-sex couples.

In addition to ruling Walker's labor law constitutional, on a historic day the state's highest court also upheld the state's voter ID law and a 2009 law providing limited benefits to gay and lesbian couples.

The state court's decisions on the voter ID and domestic partner registry could still be overtaken by decisions in separate but related cases in federal court. But after more than three years of litigation, the court's seven justices on Thursday put to rest the last of the major legal disputes over Act 10, the 2011 law repealing most union bargaining for most public employees.

The decision was 5-2, with Justice Michael Gableman writing the lead opinion, which found that collective bargaining is not a fundamental right under the constitution but rather a benefit that lawmakers can extend or restrict as they see fit.

"No matter the limitations or 'burdens' a legislative enactment places on the collective bargaining process, collective bargaining remains a creation of legislative grace and not constitutional obligation. The First Amendment cannot be used as a vehicle to expand the parameters of a benefit that it does not itself protect," Gableman wrote.

Gableman was joined by Justices David Prosser, Patience Roggensack and Annette Ziegler. Justice N. Patrick Crooks concurred but wrote separately. Dissenting were Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and Justice Ann Walsh Bradley.

The state Supreme Court rulings Thursday, coming out just as this year's midterm elections heat up, were fraught with political implications.

In a statement, Walker touted his victory with the law, which ushered in cuts in public employee benefits and changes to insurance carriers, overtime rules and a host of other cost-cutting moves within the government work force.

"Act 10 has saved Wisconsin taxpayers more than $3 billion. Today's ruling is a victory for those hard-working taxpayers," Walker said.

It can be difficult to verify all of the savings that Republicans attribute to Act 10 because of gaps in the data among schools and local governments affected by the law. But in general the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has been able to confirm a large majority of the savings touted by Walker.

As governor, Walker, a Republican, was one of the defendants in all of the cases. His re-election challenger, Democrat Mary Burke, serves on the Madison School Board, the employer of the teachers suing the state in the labor case. By its very nature, voter ID has the potential to influence elections.

Burke spokesman Joe Zepecki said none of the decisions would change the fact that the key issue in the election would be the state economy and jobs.

"Mary supports the right of workers to collectively bargain, and believes that the concessions on health care and pension were fair, but should have been reached through the collective bargaining process. She knows that collective bargaining rights don't stand in the way of effective, accountable government, and that working together is the best way to address the challenges we face," Zepecki said.

In March 2011, Walker and Republicans in the Legislature approved strict limitations on collective bargaining for most public workers, setting off an explosion of litigation. In the lawsuits by unions and others, Act 10 has suffered setbacks in trial courts but so far has been upheld on every appeal.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said he hoped the latest ruling would help the state move on from the fight over the union law, which drew tens of thousands of demonstrators to the state Capitol in February and March 2011.

"After months of protests and costly recalls that Governor Walker, many of my Senate colleagues and I myself survived to retain control over the statehouse, I hope that this added legal victory can allow us to finally lay the fight surrounding Act 10 to rest. The people and the courts have spoken: Act 10 is here to stay and Wisconsin is moving in the right direction," Fitzgerald said in a statement.

In this case, opponents filed several challenges to the law and Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colás in September 2012 found major portions of Act 10 unconstitutional. The state Supreme Court agreed to take the case last year without having the state District 4 Court of Appeals first rule on it.

The two sides have disputed whether Colás' ruling affected all public-sector unions or just the two that brought the case. As that fight played out, Colás ruled in October that because of his earlier decision, Walker's employment commissioners were in contempt of court for applying parts of Act 10 to other unions.

The Supreme Court held oral arguments in November on the case and 10 days later issued a 5-2 decision reversing the contempt-of-court order.

Thursday's decision addressed the merits of the case and upheld Act 10 in its entirety. The justices who came down in favor of Act 10 were the same ones who ruled against the contempt order.

A spokeswoman for Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen had no immediate comment.

Lester Pines, the Madison attorney who represented the unions in the case, said he was disappointed by the decision but needed to read it fully before commenting Thursday.

This isn't the first time that a higher court has considered a challenge to Walker's union law.

The state Supreme Court ruled in June 2011 that lawmakers could easily avoid the state's open meetings law and did not violate that statute in passing the labor limits. And the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld Act 10 in its entirety in two challenges in federal court.

courtesy - JS Online

ETF Board Announces 2015 WRS Contribution Rates

Debbie Plunkett

Employee-Required Contribution – (Must be Paid by Employee Unless There is a Collective Bargaining Agreement in Force):

6.80%      General, Teachers and Educational Support Personnel – (decreased .20%)

7.70%       Judges, Elected Officials and State Executive Positions Designated in

                   Wis. Stat. § 20.923 (4), (8), or (9) –  (decreased .05%)

6.80%      Protective with Social Security – (decreased .20%)

6.80%      Protective without Social Security – (decreased .20%)

 

Employer-Required Contributions – (Must be Paid by Employer):

6.80%      General, Teachers and Educational Support Personnel – (decreased .20%)

7.70%      Judges, Elected Officials and State Executive Positions Designated in

                  Wis. Stat. §   20.923 (4),(8), or (9)  – (decreased .05%)

9.50%      Protective with Social Security – (decreased .60%)

13.10%      Protective without Social Security – (decreased .60%)

 

Appeals Court ruling blocks enforcement of Act 10 provisions

Debbie Plunkett

By Patrick Marley of the Journal Sentinel

Madison — The state Appeals Court on Monday kept in place for now a ruling finding Gov. Scott Walker's labor commissioners in contempt of court.

The ruling by the District 4 Court of Appeals in Madison means that, at least for the time being, the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission cannot enforce aspects of Act 10, the 2011 law by Walker that greatly restricted the ability of public workers to engage in union activities.

Monday's ruling shifts attention to the state Supreme Court, which will hear oral arguments in the underlying case Nov. 11. The high court is expected to rule on the case by next summer, though it could address some or all of the issues in the case much more quickly.

Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colás last year found Act 10 was unconstitutional for teachers and local government workers, saying it violated their guarantee of equal protection under the law and infringed on their freedom-of-association rights.

Last month, he found Walker's two labor commissioners in contempt of court because they had not followed his earlier ruling. That led the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission to cancel union certification elections that had been scheduled to begin last week.

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen asked the Court of Appeals to stay the contempt ruling and separately asked the Supreme Court to stay the 2012 ruling that found Act 10 unconstitutional.

The Court of Appeals declined to issue an immediate stay Monday as it considers the case, saying that there was not a showing of a strong likelihood the commissioners would overturn the contempt ruling on appeal.

The appeals court had taken up aspects of the case earlier and in March declined to issue a stay of the original ruling that found Act 10 unconstitutional. In its decision then, the Court of Appeals acknowledged circuit court orders did not have the precedential effect of rulings by higher courts, writing, "We reject out of hand the proposition that the circuit court's decision has the same effect as a published opinion of this court or the Supreme Court."

Van Hollen has seized on that wording in attempting to show the commission could continue to enforce Act 10 for most unions. But the Court of Appeals on Monday wrote, "The commissioners read too much into our sentence. The full footnote makes clear that we were addressing whether there could be any argument that the circuit court's decision here was binding on other courts."

The appeal of the contempt ruling can continue before the Court of Appeals but may wind up advancing more quickly before the Supreme Court. The commissioners have until Tuesday to appeal Monday's ruling before the Supreme Court, according to a schedule the high court set last week.

Even before the latest round of wrangling, Van Hollen already had appealed the underlying decision, and the Supreme Court had agreed to take it. What he sought with his latest filing was a stay that would allow Act 10 to go into place as the high court decides whether the law is constitutional.

In the short term, Monday's ruling continues to block union certification elections that would have determined whether unions could negotiate labor contracts with schools and local governments. With Monday's ruling, the unions can continue to engage in those negotiations.

Appeals Court to rule within a week on contempt ruling in Act 10 case

Debbie Plunkett

By Patrick Marley of the Journal Sentinel  - 

Madison — The state Court of Appeals said Monday it intends to decide within a week whether to stay a ruling that found Gov. Scott Walker's labor commissioners in contempt of court.

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen on Friday asked the court to rule in the commissioners' favor by Tuesday so the commissioners could begin union certification elections by this Friday, as it had planned.

The Madison-based District 4 Court of Appeals said that was too fast and the unions involved in the case deserved a chance to weigh in. It ordered the unions to file a response by Wednesday and said it planned to issue a decision by Nov. 4.

Monday's order was the latest development in the ongoing legal fight over Act 10, the 2011 law by Gov. Scott Walker that greatly restricted the ability of public workers to engage in union activities.

If the court rules by Nov. 4 for the commissioners, the union elections would start later than planned but would be completed by Dec. 1. If it rules against the commissioners, the unions would be allowed to remain in place indefinitely without having to hold annual certification elections.

The court noted, however, that its plans could change depending on what the state Supreme Court does. In addition to filing his request with the Court of Appeals, Van Hollen on Friday also asked the Supreme Court to stay the case.

Dane County Judge Juan Colás last year found Act 10 was unconstitutional for teachers and local government workers, saying it violated their guarantee of equal protection under the law and infringed on their freedom-of-association rights.

Last week, he found Walker's two labor commissioners in contempt of court because they had not abided by his earlier ruling.

The judges hearing the case on the Court of Appeals are Brian Blanchard, Paul Higginbotham and Paul Lundsten.

Affordable Care Act (ACA)

Debbie Plunkett

Obama Care

 January 1, 2014, the full impact of the ACA takes effect.  However, one major requirement has been deferred.  Employers with 50 or more full time equivalent employees (Large Employer) were initially required, by January 1, 2014, to provide affordable minimum value health insurance coverage to all employees working 30 or more hours per week.   A (Large Employer) would have been subject to financial penalties if the employer did not provide affordable minimum value health insurance.   This requirement’s effective date is now January 1, 2015.   Employers with less than 50 full time equivalent employees (Small Employer) are not required to provide health insurance for their employees under the new law.

Currently, employers of any size are not required to have health insurance coverage.  However, collective bargaining contracts have secured health insurance benefits for employees, especially in the public sector.  Another reason many employers provide health insurance benefits is to recruit and retain good employees.  They also know that a significant number of employees/dependents would have a difficult time getting coverage on their own because of pre-existing conditions.   The new law has removed any pre-existing limitations and requires insurance companies to provide guaranteed issued health insurance    Because of this new health insurance mandate, an individual can’t be denied coverage.   Therefore, to save money, there is a possibility that (Small Employers) may drop health insurance coverage knowing that their employees can purchase a health insurance policy on their own without any restrictions.

Starting October 1, 2013, individuals will be able to purchase health insurance coverage on the Insurance Marketplace (Exchange).   They would also be eligible for a premium subsidy from the government if their income is between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level.  If an individual’s income is below 100% of the federal poverty level, they would qualify for Medicaid.

Individual’s covered under a group health insurance plan that is not certified to be of minimum value can enroll in a health insurance plan on the (Exchange) and may be eligible for a premium subsidy.  In addition, if an individual is paying more than 9.5% of his/her income toward the premium of their employer’s health insurance plan, they can enroll on the (Exchange) and may be eligible for a premium subsidy.

Please call the LAW, Inc. office if you have any questions on the Affordable Care Act.

Federal judge backs Scott Walker in Act 10 ruling, dismisses lawsuit

Debbie Plunkett

 By Patrick Marley of the Journal Sentinel 

Madison — A federal judge threw out a lawsuit Wednesday challenging Wisconsin's tight restrictions on collective bargaining for public employees.

The decision by U.S. District Judge William Conley is the latest loss for unions and victory for Gov. Scott Walker, who proposed and approved the measure soon after he took office in 2011.

The law stipulates that government employee unions can negotiate over wages but nothing else, and that any pay increases can be no higher than the rate of inflation. The law also dictates that unions cannot be recognized by the state unless 51% of all potential members — not just those voting — support the union in annual elections.

Two unions representing local employees throughout Dane County sued in July 2011 in federal court in Madison contending the law violates their rights to freedom of association and equal protection under the law.

But Conley ruled that the law does not infringe on employees' rights.

"This difference is likely of no comfort to plaintiffs, but the First Amendment does not require an affirmative response from governmental entities; it simply requires the absence of a negative restriction," Conley wrote. "Under Act 10, general employees remain free to associate and represent employees and their unions remain free to speak; municipal employers are simply not allowed to listen."

Bruce Ehlke, the attorney for the unions, said he saw an inconsistency in Conley's logic because he believed barring employers from listening to unions in fact is a "negative restriction." He said the unions are considering appealing.

In their lawsuit, the unions noted that under Act 10 they could ask for no more than inflationary raises, while individual employees could ask for increases of any size, and argued such differential treatment is unconstitutional. But Conley found such differential treatment was acceptable.

In a similar case last year, Conley struck down parts of Act 10, but the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed his decision in January and upheld Act 10 in its entirety.

Act 10 remains partially on hold for some unions because of a ruling in a separate case by a Dane County judge. That will be heard by the state Supreme Court.

The legal proceedings are one of the ongoing legacies of Act 10, which in early 2011 prompted massive protests and the departure of Senate Democrats from the state in an unsuccessful attempt to block the measure.

The law was immediately blocked by a judge because of the way legislators passed it, only to be revived three months later by the state Supreme Court. Numerous other legal challenges followed, and those could continue for months or years.

Republicans praised Wednesday's decision while unions decried it.

"Act 10 is a constitutional law enacted by the people's representatives and upheld in every case where we've had a final decision. This victory reaffirms our position," Walker spokesman Tom Evenson said in a statement.

"Judge Conley decided this case in our favor, and the claims in this case are very similar to those the Supreme Court will hear next month. This is a significant victory for Wisconsin taxpayers."

Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, issued a statement saying he was disappointed in the decision.

"In America, workers have the right to join a union and with one stroke of his pen Governor Walker decimated that right," the statement said. "Act 10 always has and always will infringe upon a worker's right to collective bargaining and democracy in the workplace."

Two changes in State Budget - Public Safety Employees

Debbie Plunkett

 Two Changes in the State Budget affecting Public Safety Employees that was signed by Governor Walker.  The budget is effective July 1, 2013.

66.0502 Employee residency requirements prohibited.

(1)  The legislature finds that public employee residency requirements are a matter of statewide concern.

(2)  In this section, "local governmental unit" means any city, village, town, county, or school district.

(3)  (a) Except as provided in sub, no local governmental unit may require, as a condition    of employment, that any employee or prospective employee reside within any jurisdictional limit.

(b) If a local governmental unit has a residency requirement that is in effect on the effective date of this paragraph .... [LRB inserts date], the residency requirement does not apply and may not be enforced.

(4)  (a) This section does not affect any statute that requires residency within the jurisdictional limits of any local governmental unit or any provision of state or local law that requires residency in this state.

(b) Subject to par. (c), a local governmental unit may impose a residency requirement on law enforcement, fire, or emergency personnel that requires such personnel to reside within 15 miles of the jurisdictional boundaries of the local governmental unit.

(c) If the local governmental unit is a county, the county may impose a residency requirement on law enforcement, fire, or emergency personnel that requires such personnel to reside within 15 miles of the jurisdictional boundaries of the city, village, or town to which the personnel are assigned.

(d) A residency requirement imposed by a local governmental unit under par. (b) or (c) does not apply to any volunteer law enforcement, fire, or emergency personnel who are employees of a local governmental unit.

111.70 (4) (mc) 6. Except for the employee premium contribution, all costs and payments associated with health care coverage plans and the design and selection of health care coverage plans by the municipal employer for public safety employees, and the impact of such costs and payments and the design and selection of the health care coverage plans on the wages, hours, and conditions of employment of the public safety employee.

The Residency change will be in effect as of July 1st, 2013 and the Health Insurance change, which allows for only bargaining the health insurance premium, is effective upon expiration of your current contract.  As always, please contact the Germantown office at 1-800-657-0742 for any additional questions. 

ETF Board Sets 2014 WRS Contribution Rates

Debbie Plunkett

 Department of Employee Trust Funds 

 ETF Board Sets 2014 WRS Contribution Rates

Contribution rates for Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) employers and employees will increase in 2014, the Employee Trust Funds Board (Board) announced. The following rate increases were recommended by the WRS consulting actuary and approved by the Board on June 20:

  • 0.7% of payroll for general category employees (including teachers)
  • 1.5% of payroll for executive/elected official/judge category employees
  • 0.7% of payroll for protective category employees covered by Social Security
  • 1.7% of payroll for protective category employees not covered by Social Security

In general, the total contribution rate is split equally between the employee and the employer. This means general category employees will contribute .35% more in 2014. Executive/elected official/judge category employees will see an increase of .75%.

Why are contribution rates increasing?

While many complex factors affect WRS contribution rates, the increase is primarily due to the lingering effects of 2008’s global economic meltdown. 2014 is the last year that the investment declines will affect WRS contribution rates. Contribution rate changes, whether increases or decreases, are considered normal for retirement systems that have defined, or pre-funded, benefits.

Core Trust Fund investment results are distributed (“smoothed”) over five years to soften the impact of year-to-year volatility of investments. This also helps to keep WRS contribution rates stable. For example, over the past 25 years the rate for general category employees has deviated by just 2%.

The new rates (shown below) go into effect January 1, 2014. Rates may be different for employees who have collective bargaining agreements. Other mandatory employer contributions for duty disability, the state's Accumulated Sick Leave Conversion Credit Program, or unfunded liabilities are not included and vary by employer.

Employee CategoryTotal Rate 2013Total Rate 2014Employee Contr. 2013Employee Contr. 2014
General/Teacher13.3%14.0%7.0%7.0%
Elected Official/Exec/Judge14.0%15.5%7.75%7.75%
Protective with Social Security16.4%17.1%7.0%10.10%
Protective without Social Security19.0%20.7%7.0%13.7%

Created with the HTML Table Generator

Employee Category

Total Rate
2013

Total 
Rate
2014

Employee 
Contribution 
for 2014

Employer 
Contribution
for 2014

General/Teacher

13.3%

14.0%

7.0%

7.0%

Elected Official/Executive/Judge

14.0%

15.5%

7.75%

7.75%

Protective with Social Security

16.4%

17.1%

7.0%

10.10%

Protective without Social Security

19.0%

20.7%

7.0%

13.7%

For additional information:  How are WRS Contribution Rates Determined?

Public workers may pay more for retirement

Debbie Plunkett

Investment losses in 2008 and 2011 cited

Courtesy Fox 11 News

MADISON (AP) - Public employees in Wisconsin could see another increase in the contribution rates they pay into the Wisconsin Retirement System under a plan the system board is scheduled to consider Thursday. 

The proposal is for rates to be 14 percent of payroll for teachers and general employees, with workers and their employers each paying half, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. The employers are state and local governments, meaning taxpayers would foot that share of the bill. 

The retirement system gets 80 percent of its income from investments. But large market losses in 2008 and 2011 forced a series of rate increases and cuts in retiree benefits. 

Benefits to retirees have dropped for five years, including a cut of nearly 10 percent on May 1 that trimmed payments for nearly 100,000 retirees. 

Next year would be the fifth straight year that the contribution rate increased. It was 13.3 percent of payroll last year and 11.6 percent the year before that. 

Lagging investment income was responsible for about half of this year's contribution-rate increase. The other half was the result of the 2011 law that ended collective bargaining and required employees to pay exactly 50 percent of required contributions. The law also increased benefit levels for future retirees, so total contribution had to rise in anticipation of the future costs.

There are more than 570,000 current and former public employees invested in the retirement system. About 167,000 are retirees and their beneficiaries, who received an average pension of $25,000 in 2011. 

The $85 billion fund is considered one of the most stable in the nation because state law requires adjustments to rates and benefits when investment income falters. 

Local governments can have difficulty covering the contribution rate increases because the state imposed tougher limits on local taxes in 2011, said Curt Witynski, assistant director of the Wisconsin League of Municipalities. 

"It is a big part of municipal budgets because payroll and benefits are big parts of our budgets," Witynski said. 

Rob Marchant, the deputy secretary of the state Department of Employee Trust Funds, said not all public workers will end up paying more. The 8.5 percent of retirement system participants who are police, firefighters or prison workers will have some or all of the increase offset by decreased contributions to a disability fund.

LAW will continue to monitor this information and provide you will updates as they occur.  As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at LAW in the Germantown office. 

State Supreme Court agrees to hear appeal holding up Act 10

Debbie Plunkett

Courtesy of JS Online 

Madison — The state Supreme Court announced Friday it was taking up a case that struck down parts of Gov. Scott Walker's signature law limiting collective bargaining.

The move will speed up the final resolution of the case, which hinges on whether parts of the law, known as Act 10, violate the state constitution.

The court also accepted a case that will decide whether Wisconsin's domestic partnership registry for same-sex couples conflicts with the state's constitutional ban on gay marriage and civil unions.

A Dane County circuit judge in September found parts of the union law violated the state constitution's guarantee of free association and equal protection under the law. The two sides dispute whether the ruling affects only the unions that brought the case or all teachers and local government employees in Wisconsin.

The decision was appealed, and the Madison-based District 4 Court of Appeals in April asked the Supreme Court to take the case directly, without a ruling from the appeals court. The appeals court said the Supreme Court should resolve the matter because of its statewide significance — and because of confusion among local governments about whether the lower court's ruling applies to them.

The suit was brought by Madison Teachers Inc. and Public Employees Local 61, which represents City of Milwaukee employees.

In his ruling last year, Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colás found parts of Act 10 violated the associational and equal protection rights of local government employees who chose to join a union because it treated them differently than employees who did not choose to join a union. Specifically, those in a union are limited by how much they can seek in wage increases, while those not in a union can seek any amount from their bosses, the judge said.

Colás also ruled Act 10 violated the home-rule clause of the state constitution because it dictated how much Milwaukee employees had to pay into their city pension funds.

The case now goes to a Supreme Court that has shown deep divisions over Act 10, though it has never issued a ruling on the law's merits.

Act 10 was stalled shortly after it passed in March 2011, when Dane County Circuit Judge MaryAnn Sumi ruled a committee of lawmakers had violated the open meetings law in passing Act 10. The Supreme Court reversed Sumi 4-3 in June 2011, and the night before the decision was issued two justices got in a physical altercation while arguing about the case. 

Appeals panel asks state Supreme Court to take up union bargaining law

Debbie Plunkett

Courtesy of the Journal Sentinel 

Madison - An appeals court asked the state Supreme Court on Thursday to quickly take up a case over Gov. Scott Walker's controversial law on collective bargaining, saying the high court should decide the issue without the appeals court ruling on it.

If the seven-member Supreme Court agrees to take the case, it would speed up final resolution over whether parts of Act 10 violate the state constitution. If the Supreme Court does not accept the case, the Madison-based District 4 Court of Appeals will have to issue a ruling on the case.

A Dane County Circuit Court judge in September found parts of the law violated the state constitution's guarantee of free association and equal protection under the law. The two sides dispute whether the ruling affects only the unions who brought the case or virtually all teachers and local government employees in Wisconsin.

"It is hard to imagine a dispute with greater statewide effect or with a greater need for a final resolution by the Supreme Court," the three appeals judges wrote in their unanimous request for the Supreme Court to take the case.

"Although the parties do not address the topic, news accounts suggest that several municipal employers are engaged in legal disputes relating to this topic, and many more are left in limbo wondering whether they are better off engaging in some type of tentative bargaining or refusing to engage with employee representatives. We urge the Supreme Court to accept this certification and put these legal issues to rest."

The request comes two days after the unions who brought the lawsuit filed a motion with Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colás asking him to block the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission from enforcing parts of Act 10 because of the judge's September ruling.

The suit was brought by Madison Teachers Inc. and Public Employees Local 61, which represents City of Milwaukee employees.

In his ruling last year, Colás found parts of Act 10 violated the associational rights and equal protection rights of local government employees who chose to join a union because it treated them differently than employees who did not choose to join a union. Specifically, those in a union are limited by how much they can seek in wage increases, while those not in a union can seek any amount from their bosses, the judge said.

Colás also ruled Act 10 violated the home-rule clause of the state constitution because it dictated how much Milwaukee employees had to pay into their city pension funds.

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, who is trying to overturn the lower court ruling, said in a statement he is confident Act 10 is constitutional and called the appeals court's request a "positive development."

"Any remaining issues concerning Act 10 need to be resolved as soon as possible and this action by the Court of Appeals gives the Wisconsin Supreme Court an opportunity to resolve them in a final, binding decision," Van Hollen's statement said.