Bargaining Update (6/9/21)


We met with the state on June 8th and we were presented with their new compensation and language offers.


We were confident that the state would provide a reasonable comp. In our last meeting, on May 28th, WLEA offered a 7yr grid with top pay where we wanted it, the average of the municipalities. We accomplished this and were $291.00 dollars below the states offer based on $25.8 million dollars in annualized payroll. We really could not have been much closer.


There is a small hiccup in settling with management and that is another language item the state wants from us. The language they have been asking for hasn’t changed since July of 2020. We have told them no since they first presented it.


Management would like to reduce the amount of time a steward can file a grievance from 30 days to 14 days. Yeah, I’m sure that seems minor to most of you. Who cares? The issue is this: our grievances are our primary protection against contract violations. We use grievances to ensure that every level of management treats us fairly and follows our contact. Your stewards use those 30 days to get everything in order, and this is on top of their regular duties. Management wants us to get all that together in less than half the time we have now. Giving into that language weakens the union considerably – in a way we will never regain if we concede now.


The great State of Wisconsin is not known for a fast turn-around on issues. I mean, look at our bargaining sessions alone! These shortened timelines are not to make things go quicker. They could not care less. What they want is to see our issues dismissed on technicalities. If stewards can’t meet that turn-around time, then management doesn’t need to address our grievances. That is what we would be facing – this is not a small thing they’re asking. To top it off this language has probably been in the master contract since the 1970’s and has caused zero issues.


We have given on other demands they’ve made, we are not simply saying no to say no. We have given the state language that will void grievances after 1 year if they have not been scheduled or heard in that time frame. This is something that they badly wanted. The state has failed to prove why going from 30 days to 14 days is necessary or beneficial to anyone besides them. Even putting a time limit to step 3’s is a stretch.


I would be shocked if a Governor that ran, in part, on reversing Act 10 is in favor of weakening one of Wisconsin’s last remaining state employee unions.


If anyone thinks that we should just trust them and take the money, just remember that they had told us this session was JUST going to be financials. Yes, Covid messed that up at first but the state has recovered. Now look where we are: stuck over language again and the state has an extra 4.4B dollars to spend over the next 3 years. Ideally, their language item should be postponed until after this contract has been signed. We would then begin bargaining on the 21-23 contract and possibly have a current contract for the first time in over a decade.


Why would the state drag it out? Because the union of the past would have sold out for the money and sacrificed on the language. They would have weakened themselves just for that dollar amount. Sure, it’s instant gratification, but at what cost?


If we give, they need to give – that's the nature of bargaining. If we’re weakening, then they need an equal and opposite give on their part. The comp offer they’re giving now is for average pay, and quite similar to what would have been there if the 2019 TA had passed. That is not a give. Don’t be deceived – they’re dangling average in front of our faces like it’s an unspeakable treasure.


Sadly, we do not meet again until July 21. We have accepted every day in 2021 that the state said they were available to meet. The long span between dates is not because the union is unavailable. We are willing to meet any day.


While the state’s delay and their dragging out of the process stinks for all of us, keep this in mind, you are not losing money while this remains in limbo. You are accruing back pay while we wait for the states last offer to work through the final processes. There will be a 2% adjustment back paid to January 2020 and 2% back paid to January of 2021. The effective date for market money will be 6/6/21 with language for back pay. Progression through the steps will continue for all of you that are not at the top step on the pay grid.


Finally, if anyone catches wind of sergeants, lieutenants, captains or any other “command” rank making derogatory comments about the union’s decision to not take money, please pass on who and when. I’m not talking about supervisors who are just asking about the status, but the ones who make comments to attempt to undermine the bargaining process. That is frowned upon by the WERC and could be considered an unfair labor practice. Management has zero rights when it comes to discussing union business with bargaining members.


Chad Thompson

WLEA President


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