Bradley Thiede, Great American Worker, exploits abusive employer to triple his pay

A prison guard decides to turn the tables on his employer, Redgranite Correctional Institute.

A prison guard decides to turn the tables on his employer, Redgranite Correctional Institute. Wisconsin Department of Corrections

When the U.S. economy crashed in 2008, Gov. Scott Walker knew who to blame: Wisconsin’s government workers.

In his astute reading, it was clear the game warden, the first-grade teacher, and the guy who mows the park held way too much sway over the economy. So when Walker became governor two years later, he essentially stripped them of their union rights. That would teach them not to be so nefarious.

Bradley Thiede endured this assault. He’d been a guard at the Redgranite Correctional Institute since 1986. For 32 years he tended to people who thought it might be fun to stab him in the throat with a sharpened tooth brush. After all that time, his pay had risen to just $61,000.

Meanwhile, Walker created a workplace both demoralized and in chaos. This tends to happen when you liken your employees to terrorists.

Starting pay is a meager $16 an hour, slightly more than you get for making French fries in Minneapolis. Job applications slowed to a trickle. Which led to a prison system with 20 percent of its jobs vacant. Which led in turn to corrections officers working double-shifts and forced overtime for years.

Weirdly enough, there’s a cost to abusing your employees. Walker now spends $42 million annually on overtime, up 31 percent since he took office.

Yet Bradley Thiede, Great American Worker, found a way to exploit this disorder the old-fashioned way; by working his ass off.

Beginning in January of last year, he started gobbling the overtime. In the next 12 months, he averaged 13.5 hours a day, seven days a week. His final overtime bill for 2017: $113,000.

Thiede would end up pulling in a total of nearly $175,000 last year – or about $30,000 more than Scott Walker. Then he retired in April. Because his pension is based on his annual earnings, his scheme will continue to pay off until the day he dies.

Last week, the U.S. Labor Department reported that inflation has surpassed any wage gains the average worker has made in the past 12 months. That means that, yes, most of us are now making less in real dollars than we did last summer.

But while victory for the working stiff is exceedingly rare, sometimes the good guys win.

So we salute you, Bradley Thiede, Great American Worker.