Another Round in State’s War With Unions

     MADISON, Wisc. (CN) – The attorney for a state employees’ union claims Gov. Scott Walker’s administration is “attempt(ing) to divide public employees by pitting them against one another.” The AFSCME Council 24 claims its members had to take 16 unpaid furlough days in the past 2 years, while state prosecutors had to take only 10.      The union wants its members paid for the 6 extra days.
     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.
     Gov. Walker approved the reduced furlough days for the district attorneys’ employees earlier this year.
     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 not 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 and were paid for the six furlough days.
     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 be equivalently compensated. 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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