City of Milwaukee gets nasty fast with two public union locals | Wis.Community

City of Milwaukee gets nasty fast with two public union locals

[img_assist|nid=58034|title=Outrageous|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=135|height=173]Buried in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story today on local reaction to Scott Walker's new union-busting law:

Two of 17 other union locals were without contracts as of Wednesday, so those locals have been terminated, City Labor Negotiator Troy Hamblin said. The two unions represent about 375 police support staff and police aides, and would need to hold certification elections to represent those workers in bargaining for wages.

So while City of Milwaukee police officers can still collectively bargain, along with firefighters, because Scott Walker exempted them, the civil servants who dispatch those police to calls are now apparently stripped of their union, according to the city's labor negotiator. But it's even worse than that.

I find nothing in the new state law that would give the state or cities the right to pre-emptively "terminate" a public employee union. The law does require onerous, annual, re-certification votes by union members in order for public unions to retain their collective bargaining rights, but the first such vote is months away.

This move, if accurately reported, takes advantage of one of the all-time Catch-22 laws ever enacted. The status quo is that these unions have been the official collective bargaining units for their members. A re-certification vote hasn't been taken, and the new state law says nothing about removing collective bargaining status before the first such election can even be held. Indeed, at least one of those two Milwaukee city locals has had a contract sitting on the shelf since before Walker's law came to a vote in Madison. Now that contract apparently has been retroactively zeroed out by the city.

Legally dubious is the only way to regard the city's move to "terminate" a union just because the first re-certification vote has not yet been taken. Unions are independent, private entities. Arbitrarily banning them from the bargaining table without cause or due process would seem at minimum a violation of at least two articles in the Bill of Rights. But the City of Milwaukee seems to think that this imperious move is quite within its power.

Worse, it's the City of Milwaukee that made this questionable declaration even possible in the first place. In the case of one of the two now "terminated" unions, city employees have been working 5-1/2 years without a contract. That's not indicative of the city's long-term effort under the public employee union laws as they existed until this week to bargain "in good faith." Now, the city in effect rewards itself for its own intransigience. Just like Walker and the GOP have sought to reward themselves and their supporters for their own intransigience.

These two aggrieved bargaining units are very small locals and probably have insufficient legal resources to challenge Milwaukee's shameful decision. Maybe some third party will come along to help them fight in court for justice.

Here's a comment to me from a member of one of those two very aggrieved locals: "The city bargained with us in good faith when we passed the contract in March of this year, and then refused to take any phone calls or return any from the union president after that. Now we've been terminated." Milwaukee is acting just like Scotty W's administration, in other words. Walker's labor office refused to bargain with state public employee unions from the moment he took office, even though the existing law then required the state to bargain in good faith. It's "the stall" -- a frequent tactic in modern American politics.

Memo to Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett: Is this really the position of your administration? If so, how are we to differentiate your political views on collective bargaining from those of the current right-wing hegemony in Madison? Is it really okay to stall and then stiff workers out of their rights to save a few bucks, instead of fighting for principle? Is it really okay to interpret the new state law so very loosely? Is this what your city's employees truly deserve? Is the city labor negotiator's action really justifiable under this new law? What is this rush to judgment all about, anyway? Doesn't it further undermine organized workers who have supported you and your party through thick and thin?

Published

June 30, 2011 - 8:18pm

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