12/12/2011

Keeping the faith in Wisconsin

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Members of AFT-Wisconsin’s Professional Employees in Research, Statistics and Analysis overwhelmingly voted to recertify their bargaining unit Nov. 16. The vote was 42 “yes” to 0 “no.” Fifteen PERSA members did not cast votes.        

PERSA president Jeff Richter says the vote demonstrates that “our members support their union and reject Gov. [Scott] Walker’s attacks on our right to collectively bargain.” PERSA members, he says, “are more united now than ever before.”

PERSA’s bargaining unit is composed of 57 state workers, employed in a variety of agencies as well as in the University of Wisconsin system, who provide data and research on healthcare, unemployment and countless other issues of critical interest to the public. Under Gov. Walker’s controversial Act 10, 51 percent of bargaining unit members must vote annually to recertify their union. Under the law, nonvotes are counted as “no” votes.

Five other Wisconsin public employee unions, including the Wisconsin State Building Trades Crafts, voted Nov. 16 to maintain their unions.

The union recertification votes were followed by a vote of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Employment Relations on Nov. 17 to freeze state employee pay for two years. The pay plan, which only requires approval by the joint committee to take effect, passed along party lines—all six Republicans voted to adopt the pay freeze, and the committee’s two Democrats voted against it. 

Bryan Kennedy, AFT-Wisconsin president, lamented at the committee proceedings that, in years past, unions and management would address the committee and “describe contractual measures to create efficiencies, streamline work efforts, and recruit and retain the best employees.”“Unfortunately,” he said, “Act 10 gutted this process.”

“Unfortunately,” he said, “Act 10 gutted this process.” Kennedy’s testimony before the committee ended with a critical observation: “Wisconsin used to have one of the best civil service systems in the country. It was created to ensure that graft and patronage didn’t exist, that career civil servants provided stability regardless of who was in office, and that political appointees were few. It was created to make sure that the services provided by the state were delivered by highly qualified and trained workers, because Wisconsin deserves the best. However, today, we see the last vestiges of our once great civil service system being dismantled.”