Dane County and Madison Institute Changes They Hope Will Blunt the Impact of Anti-Union Act 10

Wisconsin Act 10 protest

Following Wisconsin’s passage of Act 10, union-friendly Dane County prolonged public sector union contracts as long as it could to avoid the legislation’s anti-worker effects.  The city of Madison, located in Dane County, did the same.  However, those contracts will end on December 13th for the county and December 31st for the city. The realities of Act 10 will finally, grudgingly kick in. 

In anticipation of these D-dates, Dane County and Madison have passed laws limiting the bill’s power over its employees, who will lose basic union protections thanks to the Governor’s iron fist.  Collective bargaining is off the table, but Dane County was able to adopt rules which greatly limit the impact Act 10 could have over disciplinary matters and employee pay disputes, benefits and working conditions.

County Board Chairwoman Sharon Corrigan told Madison.com:

“We tried to replicate things as much as we could under the law.  We tried to have a situation where we were not bargaining with our employees because that’s not allowed, but we will meet with employees as much as possible.”

Last week, the Madison City Council passed a similar set of rules.  Neil Rainford, staff representative for the Association of Federal, State, City and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), told Madison.com:

“They agreed to having a relationship where there’s a lot of communication and a balance of power between employees and employers,” Rainford said. “These are models of positive and productive employee relations in Wisconsin’s public sector that will prove to be very effective in providing the highest-quality public services possible.”

Local Dane County political leaders say they fought to replicate pre-Act 10 laws because they view “collective bargaining as the best way to recruit and retain a skilled, dedicated workforce.”  In other parts of the state, where politicians are more on board with the anti-worker philosophy of the state’s GOP, public administrators have made sweeping rules changes regarding scheduling, seniority, pay and benefits. 

Chief among the rules changes made by Dane County and the city of Madison is language in the employee handbook allowing workers more rights when it comes to deciding grievances and compensation disputes. Arbitrators or “independent consultants” can be used, which allows for more rights in these areas than is allotted to those in other counties.  This will hopefully reverse the tide of unionized workers leaving their jobs. The retirement rate for public sector employees has grown exponentially since Act 10.

Wisconsin Retirement System statistics show that nearly 53,622 government workers left their jobs for retirement or other reasons from 2011 through 2013, a 30 percent increase over the previous three years. At least some of the increase may be because of the aging workforce.

It is, quite literally, a sad state. “We’ve seen the after-effects of Act 10 with a lot of employee turnover and people abandoning long-term careers for other avenues,” Rainford lamented.

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