Another Round in State’s War With Unions

     MADISON, Wisc. (CN) – The union representing Wisconsin state prosecutors objects that its members were allowed to take just 10 furlough days in the past 2 years, while other state workers were given up to 16 furlough days.
     The union’s attorney claims that Gov. Scott Walker’s administration is “attempt(ing) to divide public employees by pitting them against one another.”
     Wisconsin State Employees Union AFSCME Council 24 sued the state and its Department of Administration and Office of State Employee Relations, in Dane County Court.
     The furlough days at issue are unpaid.
     The union, which claims 22,000 members, says its 2009-2011 collective bargaining agreement on furloughs (known as “Memorandum of Understanding, Furlough Implementation) requires that “furloughs should be implemented in a fair and equitable manner.”
     The defendant Office of State Employment Relations claimed that it implemented the furloughs to “balance the need to reduce state spending with the administration of a fair and equitable furlough plan” and that furloughs were “applied equally across state service.”
     But the union says that when it tried to discuss the disputed 6 days for its nonfavored members, defendant State Employment Relations Director Gregory Gracz refused.
     The union says that Gracz would no even “acknowledge that the language of the furlough [agreement]” required the state and its agents to treat state employees equitably.
     The union says it was unfair that six other state employee unions that had “like agreements” with the state were allowed to have the six furlough days restored.
     The other unions’ agreements contained language that was “substantially similar” to AFSCME Council 24’s agreement, especially on furloughs, yet the state “executed addenda” allowing for restoration of the lost work days.
     The union wants its members be “treated in a like manner” and have their six furlough days restored. It demands that the same “addenda” executed for the six other bargaining units be applied to its bargaining agreement.
     The union is represented by former Attorney General Peggy Lautenschlager, with Bauer & Bach.
     Lautenschlager told the Wisconsin State Journal that Gov. Scott Walker’s handling of the furlough issue has divided state workers.
     “Our concern is not just the integrity of the process that’s been instilled into it by the Walker administration, but in doing so we see it as an attempt to divide public employees by pitting them against one another,” Lautenschlager said.

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