Union Fights Milwaukee County for Benefits

     MILWAUKEE (CN) – AFSCME, the public employees union, claims Milwaukee County cheated its former members of benefits they earned under the county’s “Rule of 75” – retirement eligibility when age and years of service equal 75 – by amending an ordinance to require employees to have been members of the county retirement system since 1994, instead of 2006.
     In its complaint in Milwaukee County Court, the union says that just one week after the municipal employees’ status changed to “nonrepresented,” the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors adopted Ordinance 11-15.
     The amendment requires that for eligibility under the Rule of 75, an employee must have been a member in the Milwaukee County Employee’s Retirement System since Jan. 1, 1994 -though it previously required membership since Jan. 1, 2006.
     The union says employees’ change to nonrepresented status meant the municipal workers were “immediately entitled to any rights of nonrepresented members of the ERS [Milwaukee County Employees Retirement System] as set forth in Section 201.24(4.1) of Milwaukee County General Ordinances and the ‘Rule of 75’ therein.”
     As of Sept. 22 this year, AFSCME’s 50-year tenure as “the sole, exclusive, and certified collective bargaining representative of certain employees of Milwaukee County” ended. The previous collective bargaining agreement expired at the end of 2008 and the union did not file certification paper work with the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission by the September deadline. The union can no longer bargain for wages, hours and terms and conditions of employment – the direct result of Gov. Scott Walker’s so-called Budget Repair Bill, which drastically reduced the rights of public workers’ unions.
     The state Democratic Party will begin its formal recall of Walker on Nov. 15.
     State party Chairman Mike Tate said Monday: “Just reasons for recall include if an elected official baldly deceives the public during his or her campaign about what he or she will do in office, violates the public’s trust by ramming through legislation that degrades the state’s standards and traditions, shows increasingly bad management skills and panders to special interests at the expense of the people.”
     In its lawsuit, Milwaukee District Council 48, American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, seeks declaratory judgment that the original ordinance remains in effect, and an injunction to prevent Milwaukee County from implementing the amended ordinance.
     The union is represented by Mark Sweet.

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