It has been a long road. Much has changed since May 2016 – when we sat down with the state for this bargaining period. I was only a member of the bargaining team, not even a union officer. I was simply a trooper that wanted to try and make things better on the job. In the beginning, our team was former WLEA President Tom Campbell, Inspector Troy Larson, Trooper Chad Thompson, Trooper Dan Miller, and last but certainly not least Trooper Jack Aupperle. Since then, many people have come and gone. Tom left the team, then Inspector Tracy Fuller became the WLEA President. Tracy added Attorney Sally Stix to the team; she'd been the union attorney since the WLEA was formed. We were also fortunate to add Glen Jones to our roster. Glen’s been a part of our bargaining teams for 6 of the last 7 contracts. I cannot thank Glen enough for aiding us with his wide knowledge base, and for all the help he has given me along the way.
Sally retired in 2018, and we retained the services of Attorney Chris MacGillis. If you don’t know by now what I think of Chris, then I don’t know where you’ve been. Chris is amazing; he went to his first bargaining session with us in September of 2018. He reset the tone and direction of those meetings.
It took years, but we got closer and closer to an agreement. We got really close in 2018 after the state and national elections. The money on the table was acceptable, and we only needed the local agreements back to tie it up and put a bow on it.
So why the hell did this keep going? Simply put, the previous administration in the WSP did not want to bend on the previous local agreements: Section 7, at all. They wanted them dead, gone and buried.
Would not having those agreements have been so bad you ask? Well, what do you think of: “hours as determined by management?” That line was pulled from one of their “serious” offers after Gov. Evers was elected, but prior to the Superintendent joining the state bargaining team. I can only imagine the difficulties of not knowing what my hours would be from year to year. Maybe you would be comfortable with that, your bargaining team most definitely was not.
Could we have tried to settle for a raise when Walker was still in office without the Local Agreements and “just” do them later? If we had agreed and signed a contract without new agreements in place, we would have been starting over from square one on those issues. Between contracts there is a status quo rule. The contract continues as it was with regards to mandatory subjects of collective bargaining. The mandatory subjects of collective bargain are: hours, wages, and conditions of employment. Hence, the union position that the Section 7’s never really went away. In my opinion, the union misplayed that in 2015. We should have filed an Unfair Labor Practice complaint. What management did was fundamentally wrong and in our view a violation of Wisconsin labor law. Instead, we attempted to play nice and bargain those issues.
Where are we now? That is a very good question. Today I do not have a solid answer. The state's chief negotiator: Doug Thayer, was in the room for the JCOER hearing. I had a chance to speak to Doug after the vote was taken. I told Doug that I would be willing to travel down and have Christmas Dinner with him if that is what it would take to get this done. He told me that he would consult with his leadership and get back to me. Doug called me back the next day and told me that the state was not going to be ready until after the holidays.
The union team is ready and able to adjust our schedule as needed to meet and make this happen. Much the same as we did through this entire process. When we have new dates, I will send a message to your Chapter Directors and Stewards and have a quick post thrown up on this website.
This is not where we want to be. None of us are happy with this situation but it is the situation we have been thrown into and we will get through it. Many of you may be looking to leave. I can appreciate that. This seems like a never-ending cycle of disappointment. My hope is that we can put something out for a membership vote in the very near future and launch immediately into the next contract. I would love to have a contract that is settled before it is officially expired. I do not recall the last time we had that.
Thank you for your continued patience and trust. We will continue to endeavor to get the best contract we can get. I remember well how I got screwed by Jeff Nett, Tom Derse, and Carl Schultz in the early 2000s when I was a fairly new employee. I do not want to be remembered the same way by you folks.