Under the Maple Canopy

Singing Union Songs Since 2009

Another Letter to My Representative

Representative:

A couple of issues regarding your letter, you said:

During the debate, several important changes were made to the Budget Repair Bill. One significant change will ensure our public employees will still be protected by our civil service system, one of the strongest in the nation. The civil service system will make certain all hiring decisions are merit based and an employee may not be discharged, suspended, or demoted except for just cause. Grievances will be able to be appealed to the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission. Another adjustment in the Bill guaranteed that the legislature would have oversight on the proposed sale of state-owned power and heating plants. These modifications were important to making sure that Wisconsin’s public employees and public assets are properly protected in the future.

First off, my husband is a county employee. The Budget “Repair” Bill you voted for does not require that the state’s civil service regulations apply to my husband or his fellow co-workers. It simply requires that counties and municipalities set-up a civil service system of their own. Aside from a few skeletal ideas, I’m not aware of any requirements in the Budget “Repair” Bill that would extend these so called “strongest in the nation” civil service system to his position. I doubt that you’re aware of this, but our county does not have an existing civil service system. How will this protect public employees from continuing to be demonized by politically ambitious individuals?

As for grievances and the WERC – given the Republican’s penchant for cutting taxes and essential programs, can you guarantee for me that this agency will be fully funded so that it can properly and fairly handle the grievances filed? With the absurd provision in the bill that union’s must re-certifity every year with 51% of union members – not a simple majority – I have a feeling the WERC could potentially spend a great deal of it’s time administering the re-certification of unions – that is until the unions are eliminated, but then maybe that’s the point.  In at least the first few years, how much time and money will be left for grievances?

I’m not sure if you remember, but not even you won 51% of the vote and I doubt we had 51% of eligible voters voting in November. If elections in our state were held to the same standards you want to hold the unions to, you wouldn’t be in office today. With all of the limits placed on unions in the Budget “Repair” Bill, even the Wisconsin State Journal admits that the bill will effectively kill unions. Their words…not mine. Without a union to help take care of the cost of filing the grievance, what guarantees will there be that the filing fee won’t be cost prohibitive for families like mine? Even you have to admit that the grievance process is limited at best since there is no provision for a chance at appeal to a neutral third-party if both sides reach an impasse. Without that provision, how will we ensure fairness in the grievance process?

Perhaps you can explain further to me why the elimination of unions for the UW Health system and Child Care providers is related to our state’s budget. Or why the union provisions are still being sold as a budgetary issue. From my understanding, Senate Republicans could have already removed the union provisions from the bill and voted on them without quorum as they are not a budget issue. Why do you and your fellow Republicans continue to spin the truth of the issue into something it’s not? Instead of making helpful changes to the existing system (which even I’ll admit is not perfect, but then again what is?), what you’re replacing it with is a cobbled together mess that will serve the political aspirations of the politicians in power, but leave our public employees vulnerable. Pardon me for saying, but it’s rather half-assed. If you want to eliminate unions, then at the very least you have a responsibility to carefully think all facets of the issue through. If eliminating public employee unions is your aim, and I think we can both be honest enough to say that it is, then you needed to give it months of careful thought and discussion – not days – and the resultant solution needs to be far more complex than the Assembly bill that was passed.

As for the public power plants, while I applaud the changes to the bill regarding the power plants, whether the Legislature oversees these sales or not, is there a provision in there that will require that there is a bidding process associated with the sales? Continuing with no-bid contracts is a deal breaker for me.

I have yet to see a response to you on the issue of BadgerCare. As I’m sure you can appreciate, small family farmers in our state (and by extension our district) often rely upon these programs in order to get medical care. Where’s the Legislative oversight that will ensure these vital families continue to receive the medical care that they need? How will we ensure that the most vulnerable in our society won’t be abandoned in the rush to gut the support systems of our state?

With all due respect, Representative, you had the opportunity to participate and encourage real and meaningful compromise. You had the opportunity to listen to and vote for any number of the amendments proposed by Assembly Democrats. Instead, in the rush to get the bill passed, debate was silenced and real and meaningful compromise avoided. From what I’ve seen happening in Madison these last few weeks, there’s very little compromise taking place. According to my dictionary, compromise is “1a : settlement of differences by arbitration or by consent reached by mutual concessions; 1b : something intermediate between or blending qualities of two different things.” Does your dictionary define compromise differently?

I’m confident that this issue will be resolved in some fashion in the months to come, but I worry at what cost. My husband and I are far less certain of the economy today than we were even at the lowest point in the recession. We put off some necessary purchases thinking that perhaps the economy might just recover. As of last week, we’ve decided to postpone these planned purchases indefinitely. I’m hopeful that our high mileage vehicles (we don’t own a single vehicle with less than 105k miles on it) can make it another five years or so. We’ve been told that we’re out of the double dip recession zone, but I’m less confident in that assertion than before. The Republicans in Wisconsin and the national party have made it clear that public employees don’t count…they’re not “real” jobs. Maybe then, you can reassure me as to why Paul Krugman, Goldman Sachs, and Moody’s are wrong about the impact these cuts in public employees will have on the economy at large.

As it stands today, your letter provides very little explanation, zero reassurance, and inspires very little confidence that you have more than a Governor Walker talking points understanding of the issues at hand and that worries me greatly. You won your election with less than 600 votes over your opponent. Are you that confident in those results that you can continue to justify hitching your wagon to Scott Walker’s?

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