With a window of opportunity still open, Dane County officials took significant steps toward securing a new collective bargaining agreement with its employees Thursday.
Hours after county officials reached a tentative agreement with representatives of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the Dane County Board of Supervisors voted 29-8 to approve the deal.
According to Dane County Board Chairman Scott McDonell, members of AFSCME will meet over the next few days and vote to ratify it themselves. The same deal between the county and AFSCME will also be extended to as many as four or five other unions, according to McDonell.
The action comes in response to Dane County Judge Juan Colás declaring parts of Gov. Scott Walker’s Act 10, which essentially ended collective bargaining rights for nearly all public employees, unconstitutional Friday.
Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen requested a stay of the decision, which would keep the law’s provisions in effect until a decision is made in the appeals process, but no decision has yet been reached.
“We have an opportunity here where the right to collective bargain is restored — maybe permanently, maybe temporarily,” McDonell said. “Our county board is on record supporting collective bargaining with our employees, … so if we can collectively bargain then that’s what we’re doing today and tonight.”
Spectator seats at the City-County Building quickly filled for what turned into a debate that lasted approximately two hours. More than 20 citizens and about a dozen board members addressed the room before the final vote.
Over the course of the debate, several board members condemned the speed at which the tentative agreement reached the board.
“I’m just concerned,” Sup. Dennis O’Loughlin, District 20, said before voting against the deal. “Fourteen years, I mean, I voted for all of these other contracts, but they were done in a timely, professional, considerate way. I think it’s been 52 hours from the minute I heard about it until now.”
One of the surviving elements of Act 10 under Colás’ ruling is the provision which limits contract negotiations to cover only one year, according to McDonell. Thus, the tentative agreement would only be in effect for 2015.
The current contract goes through 2013, which will then be replaced by another agreement running through 2014. Both contracts were negotiated before the passage of Act 10, according to a Dane County statement.
Rep. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, delivered a strongly-worded statement in response to the board’s actions.
“Dane County is about as close to a Banana Republic as you can find anywhere,” Nass said in the statement. “Eventually, the house of cards will collapse in Dane County with significant costs. In the next budget, I will fight any effort to send more state money to this county.”
In response, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said Nass should examine the deal because it saves taxpayers nearly $5 million.
“It’s hard to argue with five million dollars,” Parisi said.
Madison Teachers Inc., the plaintiff in the case that overturned Act 10, is also pursuing a new collective bargaining agreement with the Madison Metropolitan School District in light of the court ruling.