Sunday, August 28, 2011

Labor Day 2011

This is a guest editorial about Labor Day 2011 by WSEU (AFSCME Council 24) President Paulette Feld:

Labor Day 2011 is coming in just over a week. What does it mean in Wisconsin this year? Will we get the same old tired news stories about the parades, picnics and political speeches, or has Wisconsin really awoke from their snoozing to celebrate Labor Day for what it was meant to be. Will it once again be used to mourn the passing of another summer as we start school and our busy fall schedules or will we celebrate labors proud past and hopeful future?

I’m hoping this year will be different after months of rallies and protests for workers rights in Madison AND all around the state. Some areas are celebrating recent victories in the recall elections, electing two new Senators who replaced individuals who forgot that they don’t just represent corporate interest in Madison but real people. We protected and supported 3 Senators who were brave enough to demonstrate that they did.

But, are we, as labor unions in Wisconsin going to follow the status quo and quietly celebrate Labor Day or are we going to use the day as a means to keep the awakening going? We can’t afford to be happy with the status quo…

This past week, I spent time hearing the stories of my members as we work on signing them up for dues deductions. It’s heart breaking listening to Custodians who make less than $12 an hour, talk about having to consider selling their homes, or knowing they will lose it. One of them tried to refinance, but, wasn’t accepted. It is not because these individuals were living beyond their means, they were living at the level they could afford, one year ago before the Governor of Wisconsin decided that state employees needed to contribute money they earn to balance the state budget. As a result of the reduced paychecks, most of us will be spending less in the community. Even today, the Sunday before the first day of school, the parking lots at some of the big box stores were oddly empty. Contrary to what the media and others would have you believe, state employees are not paying more for their health insurance and pensions. The money being taken out of their checks is going directly to their agencies. Yes, those of us at the University are helping keep tuition lower, but at what expense? Homes lost and local economies shattered? Other public employees are already feeling it, and just like state employees, the money that is being taken out using the “tools” will be used to balance local and school district budgets. What happens with the next budget, or when this isn’t enough? Will government double the amount taken from employees? How does this end if we’re not all willing to pay for the services given, whether we work in the public OR private sector?

This week Thursday is the first day of school. Teachers are expected to be there, just like every year, happy to see the students back and ready to teach and help them become our next generation of leaders, workers and citizens. Unfortunately, teachers are facing the same issue that State Employees are as far as cuts to their salaries. In some districts teachers have been given a new set of rules that show no respect for the commitment of these professionals. In some cases, the rules appear to punish the teachers. All of this because their union and other public employee unions had the audacity to believe that they should exercise their democratic rights and support the election of public officials that support the public good and not the corporate good.

But I digress from Labor Day celebrations. How do we celebrate this year? One Labor Council in the state, Marathon County, has already informed Republican legislators from the State and Federal level that they are not welcome in their parade (which was then reversed under public pressure). Indeed, why should politicians who obviously don’t believe in what Organized Labor stands for and respect what Labor has done to create and strengthen the middle class in our country be allowed to smile and wave in a parade that is sponsored by Organized Labor. Labor Councils and unions that continue to allow that to happen may as well turn in their charters now. Why should Republicans and the Tea Party supporters be allowed to celebrate OUR day? I hope that every labor group in the state that celebrates Labor Day in some way takes the same stand. I know at our celebration, if our US Congress person comes, when he buys his hot dog, I’ll ask him how he supports labor and the middle class. I’ll ask that Republican State Representative that labor supported in his last re-election why he supported a state budget that cuts the income of a large group of his constituents.

As Labor Activists, what else can we do? Speak out. If we talk to the media between now and Labor Day, remind them what the day means. Don’t talk about the car show, parade, bands, carnival, or old people dancing. Talk about what Labor Day really means—IT’s ABOUT UNIONS! When you talk to those attending your event, remind them of that….if they don’t want to talk about unions, then why are they there? Talk about the people who came before us in labor who fought and sometimes died to get pensions, a 40 hour work week, health insurance, workers comp, minimum wage, health and safety…the list goes on. Write letters to the editor to your local paper to make sure the community remembers that Labor Day is not just a celebration of the end of summer—it is about unions and workers. No matter who you talk to about Labor Day in the next week, be proud about being a Union member. Be proud of what we have accomplished and our future. Don’t forget to tell them that we’re not going away either, we’re going to continue the fight until we help Wisconsin once again become the state that supports workers and believes in the power of all of our workers, no matter their income level. The workers (not politicians or CEO’s) who work hard to make Wisconsin If the Governor ever understands this, then Wisconsin can once again be "open for business".

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Get out there and vote!

The Chicks congratulate our 18th SD Senator-elect Jessica King on her victory in the recall election last week. Thanks to all the volunteers for their hard work and thank you very much to Jessica King for having the courage to run again for the opportunity to represent us. We look forward to visiting you in your Senate office.

We also urge all those who live in the areas where the final two recall elections which are being held today to get out there and vote. We asked for these elections, so now it's time to cast our vote as our last act in them. You have until 8PM to vote.

Don't know where your polling place is? Click on this link:

Chicky, you ask, what difference does my vote make now that we did not win the 3 elections we needed to take the state senate back into the "blue" category? Well, if we don't retain these two seats, we're right back where we started, with only 14 Dem senators. Is that really where we want to be going? Changing the deck chairs around, while entertaining for a while, doesn't really get the job done, does it? We need to retain these folks because it reduces the margin down to one senator/vote. Not really what we wanted, but it's closer than what we were at the start of all this. We would then only need one of the folks from the other side to jump ship, vote-wise. Much easier than trying to get three, don't you think?


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Friday, February 11, 2011

Serving People Who Serve Wisconsin

More chicken poop from Governor Scotty's minions...

Link to the letter terminating the contracts of State Employees represented by the Wisconsin State Employees Union as of March 13, 2011.

Is Wisconsin still a Democracy?

Apparently, Governor Scotty's administration decided to take away the ability of State Employees to attend the rallies planned for Madison on February 15 & 16. The grapevine among the chicken coops is that supervisors in many State agencies have been instructed to deny vacation requests put in after today for vacation on Tuesday and Wednesday. We're sure that if anyone in those agencies that enforce this will also scrutinize any sick leave usage those two days...under a bare bulb no doubt.

Should we place bets on how many security people will be around the Capitol building that day and whether the doors of the doors will be open. Considering that most of them were locked on January 3 (Gov. Scotty's inauguration), chances are good that there won't be any pecking in the rotunda that day! So much for the People's House.

Everyone is invited to ride the free buses to the rallies both days....the link to the schedules can be found here:

Not what you want in your email.....

Governor Scott Walker

State of Wisconsin

Thank you for your service to your state and your fellow citizens. I know that you have worked hard during this economic downturn to ensure that our citizens continue to receive great service, despite our state having fewer and fewer resources. I, like all Wisconsinites, am grateful for your professionalism and commitment to public service.

Like almost every state across the nation, our state faces some very serious and undeniable financial challenges. Over the last three months, I have worked diligently to review the status of our state finances and to put forward a plan that balances our budget now and will create stability in future budgets.

Many of you are aware of the immediate challenges facing our state. In the current fiscal year which ends on June 30, 2011, we face a budget deficit of $136.7 million. We also owe more than $200 million to the Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund. Failure to immediately address this shortfall could result in the state being unable to pay for health services to thousands of children and families in Wisconsin’s BadgerCare program.

Looking to the future, our challenges are even greater. Over the next two years, the State of Wisconsin faces a biennial budget deficit of $3.6 billion.

While some of these financial challenges may be attributed to the slowing of our economy, the reality is that these problems were exacerbated by poor budgeting decisions approved and promoted by past elected leaders, Republicans and Democrats alike. By relying on the use of one-time money, segregated fund raids, and increases in taxes and fees, past leaders have focused on short term solutions without looking toward the future.

While these decisions may have appeared to be the easiest solution, or the path of least resistance, the bills for these decisions have come due and the path to long term financial solvency for our state requires shared sacrifices from everyone.

Today, I am introducing a Budget Repair Bill to address our current fiscal year deficit of $136.7 million. Later this month, I will introduce my 2011-2013 Biennial Budget proposal to address the pending $3.6 billion deficit.

The Budget Repair Bill will include a number of reform measures focused on bringing government employee benefits closer to the private sector, including:

· Pension Contributions – Currently, state, school district and municipal employees who are members of the Wisconsin Retirement System contribute very little toward their pensions. The bill requires that WRS employees, including myself and my cabinet officers, as well as employees of the City and County of Milwaukee, contribute 50 percent of their monthly pension contributions. This amount is estimated to be 5.8 percent of salary for 2011, which is about the national average for private sector employees.

· Health Insurance Contributions – Currently, state employees pay approximately 6 percent of annual health insurance premiums. This bill requires that state employees, again including myself and my cabinet officers, pay at least 12 percent of monthly premiums, which is still less than half of what the private sector pays. In addition, the bill directs the Group Insurance Board to implement changes to health insurance plan designs to further reduce premiums by 5 percent and will implement health risk assessments for all state employees beginning on January 1, 2012. Local employers participating in the Public Employers Group Health insurance program operated by the state will be prohibited from paying more than 88 percent of the lowest cost plan.

· Collective Bargaining – Given the above changes, the bill also makes various changes to limit collective bargaining to the base pay rate. Total increases cannot exceed the Consumer Price Index (CPI) unless approved by a referendum. Contracts will be limited to one year and wages will be frozen until the new contract is settled. Collective bargaining units will have to take annual votes to maintain certification as a union. Employers will be prohibited from collecting union dues and members of collective bargaining units will not be required to pay dues. These changes take effect upon the expiration of existing contracts. Local police and fire employees and State Patrol Troopers and Inspectors are exempted from these changes.

Collectively, these changes will result in savings of approximately $30 million in the remaining few months of the current fiscal year.

In the days ahead, some may attempt to misrepresent these reform measures, spreading inaccurate or misleading information. To ensure that you know the facts, I would like to proactively address these issues.

Furloughs – Over the last several years, state employees have been required to take furloughs resulting in an across the board pay cut of approximately 3 percent. The Budget Repair Bill and my 2011-2013 Biennial Budget proposal will not include additional furlough days for state employees.

Layoffs – Without the pension and health care reforms described above, saving $30 million over the last three months of the current fiscal year would require laying-off more than 1,500 state government employees. By implementing these reforms, the provisions contained in both my Budget Repair Bill and my 2011-13 Biennial Budget proposal are focused on avoiding layoffs for state employees.

Wisconsin’s Civil Service System –The Budget Repair Bill and my 2011-2013 Biennial Budget proposal will not include any provisions to alter or modify the main tenets of Wisconsin’s Civil Service System, one of the strongest in the nation. The grievance and dispute resolution systems currently in place, as well as all employee protections, will remain.

Vacation and Sick Leave Policy – Recent news stories have suggested that I am considering altering the state’s vacation or sick leave policy. The Budget Repair Bill and my 2011-13 Biennial Budget proposal will not include any provisions to alter or modify state employees’ vacation or sick leave policy. In addition, benefits currently accrued by any state employees will not be altered in any way.

Last week in my State of the State Address, I shared my belief that government employees are among some of the most honest, hard working, dedicated, professional workers in this state. I sincerely believe that.

We all recognize that these are historic times that require us to rethink how government operates. I ask that we continue to work together to do what is necessary to bring the state’s spending in line with our taxpayers’ ability to pay.

Wisconsin’s state employees are second to none in our nation. Our citizens expect great service, and you have delivered. I know you will continue to deliver top-notch programs for Wisconsin’s taxpayers. Thank you again for your service to our state.


Governor Scott Walker

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The budget of evil

Here are details of the budget "repair" bill to be released tomorrow:


111 W. Wilson St. #UL-11 - Madison, WI 53703 - 608-287-0130


Thursday, February 10, 2011


Gov. Walker’s budget adjustment bill items include:

Employee Compensation

PENSION CONTRIBUTIONS. Require that employees of WRS employers and the City and County of Milwaukee contribute 50% of the annual pension payment. The payment amount for WRS employees is estimated to be 5.8% of salary in 2011.
HEALTH INSURANCE CONTRIBUTIONS. Requires state employees to pay at least 12.6% of the average cost of annual premiums. Require changes to the plan design necessary to reduce current premiums by 5%. Local employers participating in the Public Employers Group Health Insurance plan would be prohibited from paying more than 88% of the lowest cost plan. The bill authorizes the DETF to use $28 million of excess balances in reserve accounts for health insurance and pharmacy benefits to reduce health insurance premium costs.
HEALTH INSURANCE COST CONTAINMENT. Directs the DETF and Group Insurance Board to implement health risk assessments and similar programs aimed at participant wellness, collect certain data related to assessing health care provider quality and effectiveness and verify the status of dependents participating in the state health insurance program. Modifies membership of the Group Insurance Board to require the representative of the Attorney General be an attorney.
PENSION CHANGES FOR ELECTED OFFICIALS AND APPOINTEES. Modifies the pension calculation for elected officials and appointees to be the same as general occupation employees and teachers.
MODIFICATIONS TO WRS AND STATE HEALTH INSURANCE PLANS. Directs DOA, Office of State Employment Relations and DETF to study and report on possible changes to the WRS, including defined contribution plans and longer vesting periods.
GENERAL FUND IMPACT. Authorize the DOA Secretary to lapse or transfer form GPR and PR appropriations, excluding PR appropriations to the UW, to the general fund estimated savings of about $30 million from implementing these provisions.
State and Local Government and School District Labor Relations

COLLECTIVE BARGAINING. Make various changes to limit collective bargaining for most public employees to wages. Total wage increases could not exceed a cap based on the CPI unless approved by referendum. Contracts would be limited to one year and wages would be frozen until a new contract is settled. Collective bargaining units are required to take annual votes to maintain certification as a union. Employers would be prohibited from collecting union dues and members of collective bargaining units would not be required to pay dues. Changes effective upon expiration of existing contracts. Law enforcement, fire employees and state troopers and inspectors would be exempt from the changes.
CAREER EXECUTIVE TRANSFERS. Allow state employees in the career executive positions to be reassigned between agencies upon agreement of agency heads.
LIMITED TERM EMPLOYEES. Prohibit LTEs from being eligible for health insurance or participation in the WRS.
STATE EMPLOYEE ABSENCES AND OTHER WORK ACTIONS. Authorizes appointing agencies to terminate any employees that are absent for three days without approval of the employer or any employees participating in an organized action to stop or slow work if the governor has declared a state of emergency.
QUALITY HEALTH CARE AUTHORITY. Repeals the authority of home health care workers under the Medicaid program to collectively bargain.
CHILD CARE LABOR RELATIONS. Repeals the authority of family child care workers to collectively bargain with the state.
UW HOSPITALS AND CLINICS BOARD AND AUTHORITY. Repeals collective bargaining for UWHC employees. State positions currently employed by the UWHC are eliminated and incumbents are transferred to the UWHC Authority.
UW FACULTY AND ACADEMIC STAFF. Repeals authority of UW faculty and academic staff to collectively bargain.
Debt Restructuring

The bill authorizes restructuring of principal payments in FY201011 on the state’s GO bonds. The provision reduces debt service costs by $165 million.


ADDRESS FY11 MEDICAID DEFICIT. Increase Medicaid GPR appropriation to cover estimated $153 million deficit.
AUTHORIZE DHS TO RESTRUCTURE PROGRAM NOTWITHSTANDING CURRENT LAW. Authorizes DHS to make program changes, nothwithstanding limits in state law, related to specific provisions.
TECHNICAL CORRECTION. Repeals a provision in Act 28 requiring unused GPR expenditure authority in the Medicaid GPR appropriation at the end of the year to be carried over to the subsequent biennium.

AGING AND DISABILITY RESOURCE CENTERS. Transfers an estimated $3 million in savings in the appropriation to Medicaid.

Provides $22 million to address shortfalls in the Dept of Corrections adult institutions appropriation.
TANF. Allocates $37 million of excess TANF revenues to increase TANF funding for the EITC from $6.6 million to $43.6 million in FY2010-11. GPR TANF funding is decreased by a similar amount.
Income Augmentation Revenues

Allow the Dept of Children and Families and DHS to utilize $6 million of already identified income augmentation revenues to meet FY 2010-11 lapse requirements.
Act 28 Required Lapses by DOA Secretary

Act 28 required a lapse or transfer of $680 million in 2009-11 from appropriations made to executive branch agencies to the General Fund. This bill would reduce the amount by $79 million to ensure the lapses can be met in the next five months.

Lapse of Funding from JFC Appropriation

The JFC appropriation includes $4.5 million related to estimated fiscal year 2010-11 implementation of Act 100, OWI enforcement changes. Funding is not anticipated to be needed in FY2010-11 and the bill lapses that amount to the General Fund.

Sale of State Heating Plants

Authorizes DOA to sell state heating plants, with the net proceeds deposited in the budget stabilization fund.

Shift Key Cabinet Agency Positions to Unclassified Status

Creates unclassified positions for chief legal counsel, public information officer and legislative liaison activities in cabinet agencies. An equivalent number of classified positions are deleted to offset the new unclassified positions.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

The State of the State and beyond....

It was a cold, windy, snowy night in the Chicken Coop last week Tuesday. The chicks were all hunkered down. What was about to happen didn't make things much warmer...

Earlier that day, the new guy in charge of the State, Governor Scotty had issued an Executive Order closing the portion of the state that was supposed to have a blizzard to the public to keep them out of danger. But, he didn't take the extra step of closing it to the point where State Employees had to stay home. No, he closed offices but employees were required to risk life and limb, to do exactly what? Watch the snow come down? Employees could stay home if they used leave time, which is exactly the way it always it... The chicks heard stories of State Employees getting stuck on the road either going to or coming home from work. People who really care about the work they do...

Later that night, while snow was falling and blowing around the big white domed building in Madison, Governor Scotty delivered his first big speech of his administration---the State of the State. The speech wasn't much, yeah Packers, thanks to his wife and more threatening of State Employees, after he recognized a State Trooper who was hit on the highway earlier in the week (a PUBLIC EMPLOYEE by the way). Oh ya, and thanks to all those legislators who helped him pass bills to make "Wisconsin Open for Business". LC2 heard that one teacher gave him a C+ for his speech....hmmm....

I'm sure after the speech, Gov. Scotty rode home in his big Yukon with his wife and family on roads cleared by PUBLIC EMPLOYEES. On Thursday after PUBLIC EMPLOYEES cleaned everything up, he jumped back in his Yukon (driven by a PUBLIC EMPLOYEE) and traveled around the state reminded folks of what a good job he is doing spending money he doesn't have.

In the meantime, he isn't talking to the State employee unions at all about settling the contract from 2009/2011. Apparently, it's a lot more fun threatening and telling folks that he is going to "force" concessions on State Employees and he'll help local municipalities do the same to their employees.

While Scotty is spending money to give to private employers, "rewarding" his buddies that helped him get elected,figuring out how to destroy the sustainable energy industry in WIsconsin (apparently Wisconsin is not "open to sustainable energy") and traveling in his Yukon, had the State Employee contracts been passed in December, additional money would be coming into the state treasury. The contracts that were presented in December included an increase in payments to health insurance that would total $100 million dollars by the end of June 2011. Yet, Scotty says now that he will get concessions from State Employees that will pay $30 million in three months. How exactly will he do that if he doesn't talk to the Union?

OK, I'm just a little fuzzy chick, but, I can figure out the math $100 million in 6 months would buy a lot more chicken feed than $30 million in 3. And the State Employees (and the chicks) would be much happier. But, I guess that Governor Scotty doesn't want State Employees to be happy, for some reason, he just doesn't like them. Perhaps it's time for him to stop for a minute, and think what his life as Governor would be like without them... Nah....that would be to much work, he'll find a State Employee to do it.