Another Shot Fired in Wisconsin Union Wars

     MILWAUKEE (CN) – Seventy-five unionized workers obtained a temporary injunction to block Milwaukee County from transferring their jobs with the Department of Children and Families to the control of the state. Oral arguments in the latest chapter in the state’s labor wars are scheduled for Oct. 31.



     The dispute dates back to 2009, when AFSCME and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services signed a Memorandum of Understanding, after allegations that county workers had not issued benefits correctly.
     The agreement allowed workers in Milwaukee County’s Income Maintenance program to be supervised by state employees, but remain county employees, and continue to receive county medical insurance, paid holidays, pensions and other benefits.
     Though the agreement expires on Dec. 31 this year, the Income Maintenance workers say they were given just 4 days notice that they would become state workers as of Oct. 1.
     The reclassification affects 300 employees, but not all are union members.
     The state will no longer reimburse Milwaukee County nearly $6 million a year to cover health and pension costs for the workers, according to an in-house memo.
     When the union and the county made the arrangement in 2009 arrangement, now-Gov. Scott Walker – then the Milwaukee County Executive – did not support it.
     Walker said the county-sponsored pension benefits were excessive, and wanted the positions converted to state jobs.
     After becoming governor, Walker’s so-called 2011 Budget Repair Bill severely restricted the rights and powers of public employees union, and sparked a national uproar, including copycat legislation in states around the country, nine recall elections of Wisconsin state legislators, and an effort being organized to recall Walker in January.
     Many Milwaukee County union workers are entitled to benefits under “Rule 75,” which permits employees whose age and years of service reach 75 to retire with a full pension.
     If the positions are successfully converted to the state, only employees hired before 1994 will be entitled to the benefit.
     The Milwaukee District Council 48, Local 594, American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, sued the County of Milwaukee, in two complaints in county court.
     The union is represented by Mark Sweet.
     The union won a temporary injunction. Oral arguments are scheduled for Halloween.

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