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Lee Judge

A national CNN story last month took a deep look at what Wisconsin's infamous Act 10 means to the state's teachers some six years later.

Citing studies that have analyzed the impact of the law that essentially neutered public employee and teachers unions, CNN reported that median salaries for teachers in our state have fallen 2.6 percent and benefits have taken an 18.6 percent hit.

Additionally, the Center for American Progress reported that 10.5 percent of public school teachers left the profession the first year after the law was enacted. That was up from 6.4 percent the year before. Roughly 8.8 percent of the teaching force continues to find other jobs annually.

But, as I've written here several times in recent years, a more troubling phenomenon since the Scott Walker attack on the public workforce has been teachers jumping to other school districts in order to get pay raises that they can no longer get at home.

This has been particularly devastating for smaller rural districts, where Act 10, coupled with strict levy limits on property taxes, have combined to hold wages down while wealthier suburban districts can offer higher pay for teachers in specialized subjects.

That's fueling a growing gap between educational opportunities in poorer areas and  wealthier districts — a troubling trend of educational inequality for the state's students.

Act 10, though, is just one example of the forces that are producing the situation we're witnessing of lower unemployment rates but a troubling sluggishness in working people's pay. The war against unions has effectively left working people without a voice in dealing with employers. Gone are the days in so many workplaces where employees could effectively argue for pay and benefit increases that match the success of their employers.

Plus, many employers have cleverly structured jobs to escape requirements that they provide benefits or overtime.

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Then there's what I call the Uber effect, where part-timers without health or retirement options replace a work force with full-time, family supporting jobs that include pensions and health insurance.

Technology has disrupted so many economic sectors that there's no question it has served to keep wages low even when everyone seems to be working.

And then we wonder why the gap between the rich and poor keeps getting wider.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. and on Twitter @DaveZweifel

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