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Open Letter to Wisconsin Legislators

I sent this e-mail to each and every member of the Wisconsin legislature. I sent this to Republicans as well as Democrats. That includes the Fitzgerald brothers and Glenn Grothman. I even sent this to Steve Nass.

Let's keep in mind, this isn't a done deal. Scott Walker can govern by fiat. The Wisconsin Legislature has to approve this bill. Interestingly, I haven't heard much talk from Republicans in the legislature about Walker's proposal, but again, they will have to vote for it for it to come to fruition. Let's also keep in mind that many of these Republicans will have to run for reelection next year.

I am writing to urge you to consider voting against Gov. Walker’s proposal to outlaw collective bargaining for public employees. I do understand that the state is in an extremely difficult financial position. However, I feel that the Governor’s proposal puts an undo hardship on state workers in the short term and puts a significant hardship on public employees in the long term.

State workers face a considerable paycut in this proposal. In today’s newspaper, I saw how this breaks down for a state employee pulling down an annual salary of $40,000. Their gross wage would drop by nearly $300 a month. Annual take-home pay would decline by nearly $2000. And pay raises for state workers along with county and municipal employees would realistically be limited to inflation. For the long term, this proposal tells public employees that they will never see their real (adjusted for inflation) wages increase.

As I see it, this is a tax hike. I find myself wondering, in these dire economic times, can we afford to do this to a significant portion of our state’s middle class?

This concerns me greatly. I work for Union Cab here in Madison. I get paid commission plus tips, so any decline in our business affects me personally. Madison is a strong public sector town. I worry that the state workers immediately, along with teachers, city workers and county workers down the road will find themselves with less disposable income. This means fewer people going to restaurants, fewer people going to concerts, fewer people going to bars and clubs and fewer people going to the airport as they leave for vacation. This means fewer people taking cabs, which means I make less money. Overall, this means fewer people spending money on goods and services, which means fewer jobs.

The Governor’s proposal means more than taking money out of the hands of the middle class. Outlawing collective bargaining has dire implications for workers in their workplaces because they will not be able to bargain around issues of working conditions. Workers will no longer have any say over workplace safety. Grievance procedures will go out the window. Workers will be able to be fired for no good reason and will have no recourse. Workers will be at the mercy of the arbitrary and capricious whims of their supervisors.

My wife used to work for the state and was a member of a collective bargaining unit. Sometimes, as part of her job, she was required to travel. That resulted in some very long days. Her supervisor didn’t seem to understand that the union contract stipulated that flex and comp time could be used to make up for long hours. They butted heads about this many times. Frequently, after coming back to town, my wife’s supervisor would expect her to come into work the next day. The union contract protected my wife from being forced to work unpaid overtime.

Given the events this week in Egypt, I’m also thinking of what the Governor’s proposal says about democracy in our state and in our country. A fundamental concept in democracy is the right to assemble. This means many things including the right to form a union and bargain collectively. If one looks at all the democracies around the world, one sees nations with vibrant labor movements. One also tends to see prosperity in those democracies as well. When one looks at dictatorships around the world, one sees nations where labor movements are repressed by the state.

This proposal is more than just about putting the state’s fiscal house in order. In the long term, it’s about democracy. Please forgive the overcharged rhetoric, but be aware that when you vote on this proposal, history will judge you. It is my most profound hope that history will judge you favorably for acting wisely.

Thank you for your consideration.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 7th, 2011 10:33 pm (UTC)
Fred-- Very well written! As a MULO alumnus, I know very well the value of unions to improve not only the the quality of life, but the quantity of life. Union bargaining for health and safety SAVES LIVES. Why don't our legislators across the aisle get it, that unions are mostly not about money.

Unrelated notes: I loved your book, by the way.
Is there going to be a MULO reunion in April? We may have to hold it at the state capitol building ;)
Mar. 7th, 2011 11:22 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the love! Don't know if the MULO reunion is going to come off. Maybe what we could do is get together for drinks or have a pot luck or something and maybe we could tie it to the protests.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


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Fred Schepartz

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