Republican Attack on State Employee Rights Stopped

AFSCME members celebrate the defeat of a Wisconsin style anti-union provision Thursday night with several of the lawmakers who supported labor this session, including: DFL House minority leader Melissa Hortman (center).
AFSCME members celebrate the defeat of a Wisconsin style anti-union provision Thursday night with several of the lawmakers who supported labor this session, including: DFL House minority leader Melissa Hortman (center).

AFSCME members Thursday night defeated a Republican attempt to cripple the right of state employees to bargain wage increases and health insurance.

Language inserted in the Omnibus State Finance bill in the middle of the night Tuesday would have forced us to negotiate with the Legislature, making it nearly impossible to get a fair contract.

Those changes were voted out of the bill by the Senate Thursday night, and the entire bill passed both the Senate and House. Now it goes to Gov. Dayton for his signature.

AFSCME beat back the attempt to take away our bargaining rights and turn us into Wisconsin through concerted member action. Council 5 members were a constant presence at the Capitol all session, and especially this past week, as the Legislature blew past the end-of-session deadline Monday and went into a special session that lasted four days.

Members in green AFSCME T-shirts stayed late into the night all week, packing House and Senate galleries, talking to lawmakers and carrying “AFSCME is watching” signs. They made hundreds of calls to Gov. Dayton and their legislators, and signed petitions. They attended rallies with our allies in labor, the faith community, transit and community groups that packed the Rotunda and send chants thundering through the Capitol.

“Politicians better know one thing: We are watching and we will hold them accountable for cuts that hurt working people,” Council 5 executive director Eliot Seide said.

Multiple legislators told members Thursday night that the AFSCME presence made a big difference in the outcome of the vote.

Council 5 executive director Eliot Seide with Senate minority leader Tom Bakk
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The Legislature finished up its special session around 3 a.m. Friday. They approved a two-year, $46 billion budget plus bonding that goes to the Governor for his signature or veto. If he vetoes any of the bills, it could mean another special session.

AFSCME is asking the Governor to veto the Transportation, Tax and E-12 Education bills:

  • The $300 million transportation bill doesn’t provide enough money for our design, inspection or maintenance work. It guts the general fund, the primary source of funding for many major state programs. Gov. Dayton supports a funding mechanism such as a gas tax hike to consistently fund roads and bridges, without hurting other public services. The GOP bill breaks the budget and creates an ongoing structural deficit.
  • The E-12 bill has two poison pills that hurt teachers: It removes seniority rights, and changes licensing requirements so that people without professional training could end up with teaching licenses.
  • The tax bill gives part of our $1.65 billion surplus away in tax breaks to big corporations and the GOP’s wealthy cronies.

AFSCME supported MSRS pension reforms, but those reforms didn’t make it into a bill.

A GOP bill to restrict local control passed the House and Senate. It would prohibit local governments from requiring better wages and working conditions. Even though the GOP leadership had promised to send the Governor a clean bill on local control, they tied it to state employee paid parental leave and other measures. Dayton called that “unconscionable” in a statement, and has promised to veto the bill.