Fiscal? WERC Told Gov in Feb that Coll Bargaining Bill's Immediate Union Elections Necessitated Massive Appropriations | WisCommunity

Fiscal? WERC Told Gov in Feb that Coll Bargaining Bill's Immediate Union Elections Necessitated Massive Appropriations

On February 18 Wisconsin Employment Relations Commision (WERC) Chair Judy Neumann sent Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch voicing WERC's "grave concerns" about the immediate appropriations required by the collective bargaining aspect of the budget repair bill, which has since been separated-out and passed seperately, with the assurances by the governor's office that the bill contained no appropriations, was therefore not "fiscal," and did not require the constitutional 3/5 quorum for fiscal bills for passage.

The largest concern for Neumann is the prospect of WERC being the state agency in charge of managing hundreds union elections in April of 2011. Given the small number of staff members she said it would be "impossible" to do the elections on site and that:

As our administrative rules permit, we generally utilize mail ballot procedures when the size or dispersion of work sites makes on-site election impractical.

Representation elections require meticulous attention to detail, in order to protect the privacy and validity of the ballots. They are labor intensive endeavors requiring training and oversight. The basic clerical work involves collecting from employers and validating their rosters of bargaining unit members, as well as preparing, printing, and mailing ballots along with instructions and postage-paid return envelope to each represented employee on the list. The return envelope must identify the voter. (The ballots themselves of course do not.) Extreme care must be taken to ensure that the correct ballot return envelope is included in the matching outgoing mail envelope. When ballots are returned, the must be tallied by hand in order to ensure the ballots are not defaced, do not include identifying information, and are counted exactly. Schedules must be arranged so as to accommodate observers from the parties. Every ballot requires two first class stamps and considerable materials and labor costs.

Then she urges the Huebsch to do the math for himself:

A few years ago, we conducted an election in the State Law Enforcement bargaining unit, comprising approximately 900 employees. We estimate that the process of preparing, mailing, opening, and counting the ballots for just that one unit took between 45 and 50 "man hours."

Costs in mail ballot elections are also substantial. For 200,000 employees, the postage alone at $0.88 per ballot would be $176,000. There would be additional materials costs for envelopes, printing, labels and the like, and labor costs for preparing and counting.

So, by my calculations the union elections would cost the state approximately 11,000 man hours. For the sake of argument, let's say they could hire some temps to help at $10 an hour or $110,000. Envelopes, paper and printing would cost approximately $30,000. Add in the previously mentioned $176,000 for postage, that brings us to a grand total of at least $316,000.

And this is just for the first round of union elections and just for state workers. Under the law every bargaining unit has to do elections every year. WERC is expecting these kind of massive elections every month, of every year in the future.

The costs to manage these elections will be staggering and immediate. Gee, this sounding pretty "fiscal" to me.

The Republicans were apparently running under the assumption that if a bill does not appropriate or tax, it isn't a "fiscal bill." Joint Finance Committee Chair, State Sen. Alberta Darling, for example, said that because it wasn't a fiscal bill requiring quorum.

According the Constitution, however, which the Republicans might want to dust-off and actually read, it clearly states that "fiscal bills" also includes those that "creates a debt or charge":

Article VIII, §8 Vote on fiscal bills; quorum. Section 8. On the passage in either house of the legislature of any law which imposes, continues or renews a tax, or creates a debt or charge, or makes, continues or renews an appropriation of public or trust money, or releases, discharges or commutes a claim or demand of the state, the question shall be taken by yeas and nays, which shall be duly entered on the journal; and three-fifths of all the members elected to such house shall in all such cases be required to constitute a quorum therein.

Considering that they were well aware of the immediate and actual costs of the union elections before they made the claim that collective bargaining aspects of the bill were non-fiscal, I would say this is just yet another case of the Fitzwalker directly snubbing their noses at the Wisconsin Constitution and thinking they were above the law.




March 28, 2011 - 9:50pm