won in arbitration. It was ruled that per a previous arbitration ruling, the County could only impose 45 hours of reduced work time. Not only that, it was discovered during the proceedings that there was actually no crisis and that there might not even have been a deficit.
While crafting his 2010 Milwaukee County Budget, Walker decided to include a money saving provision of nearly $20 million in concessions from the unions, even though he never sat down and asked the unions to make the concessions, even though he was supposed to be negotiating a new contract with the unions at the time.
Since he never came to the bargaining table much less made a proposal for the concessions, the unions were unable to reject or accept the wanted concessions. Despite this fact, and with the aid of the corporate media, most significantly the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Walker waged a publicity war with the unions, claiming that the "greedy unions" wouldn't make the concessions he needed from them.
To make up for the hole in his illegal budget, but unable to used the reduced work week like he wanted to, Walker decided to impose furlough days on the workers. What Walker apparently didn't understand, or just didn't care about, is that reduced work time is reduced work time, no matter what form it took.
Many workers got 12 days of furlough, while many more, including yours truly, got pinched for 26 days. That's one every pay period or 10% of my pay being cut, not to mention the mayhem it's played with pensions, seniority and other issues, just so Walker could have a campaign talking point. Even public safety workers, like Sheriff's deputies, weren't immune and were given eight furlough days.
To show his "fiscal conservatism" Walker illegally imposed another round of furlough days in his 2011 Milwaukee County budget as well.
The ironic thing is that any surplus Walker might have claimed from these stunts were made up in overtime to make up for all the missed work due to the furloughs and compounded by severe staffing shortages.
The unions grieved the excessive furloughs to the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC). Walker had the County stall this long enough to keep it from becoming a campaign issue. Then, just a couple of months after he was sworn in as governor, WERC ruled in favor of the unions, stating that anything above the 45 hours was illegal.
The County has since tried to appeal this decision two more times, once back in front of WERC and once in circuit court. Both times they came away with rulings against them. Meanwhile, the back pay owed to the workers was accumulating interest at 12%, compounded daily. This means that the bill was growing by about $35,000 a month. Again, just to give Walker a campaign talking point.
On Wednesday, Corporation Counsel sent out a proposed resolution to the appropriate County Board committees, stating that their recommendation is to just pay the workers the money Walker illegally took from them. From their report on the matter:
The decisions of the WERC and affirmed by the Circuit Court placed a limit of 45 hours on the number of annual furlough hours that could be imposed on AFSCME DC-48. Based on the timing of the WERC decision in May 2011, an accrual of $2.0 million was made at the end of County’s 2010’s fiscal year. The affirmation by the Circuit Court of the WERC decision in February 2012, required an additional accrual of $1.5 million in 2011 for costs associated with the furlough decision, including the accrual of interest costs, and no offset for outside revenue. An additional accrual of $584,000 associated with employees of the Airport and the Department of Family Care were charged to those departments.
The total accrued liability is $4.1 million for the payout of furlough hours that exceeded a 45 hour annual furlough limit as determined by the WERC. These charges reduced the available surplus in 2010 by $2.0 million and in 2011 by $1.516 million. The reported surplus for 2011 of $11.5 million has already been reduced by the furlough hours accrued cost of $1.5 million for 2011.
And that $4.1 million is just for the 2010 furloughs. There is the issue of the furloughs in 2011, which jumps the bill up to over $6 million.
And who is going to pay the restitution for Walker's illegal politicking at the workers' expense?
Well, despite my semi-serious suggestion to sue Walker's campaign, Walker isn't go to part with a dime to pay restitution for his illegal activities.
And don't look at Walker's cheerleaders and apologists, like Owen Robinson or James Wigderson, to put their money where their mouths are. Much like their hero, Walker, they like to bluster about but don't like to take responsibility for their choices.
No, it will be the taxpayers of Milwaukee County that will end up footing the bill for Walker's escapades. It's just a shame that they can't have just the Walker supporters in Milwaukee County pay for it. Since this is what they wanted, they should feel the full impact of their folly.
This turn of events also shows that the current Milwaukee County Executive, Chris Abele - who's now making himself look like a Democratic version of Walker by claiming to have an $11.5 million surplus, also balanced on the back of the workers - isn't any better than Walker was.
But all of this should also make one pause to wonder about Walker's claims that the state running a surplus. I, for one, don't believe it for a second. But Walker is willing to bet your money that it is.Most of all, if you take nothing else away from this story, it does show why the unions are so sorely needed. It would have been impossible for most workers, acting on an individual basis, to try to take the legal actions necessary to protect their right.
It's no wonder why Walker and his corporate backers want to bust the unions once and for all. The unions are the only thing keeping them from exploiting workers completely.