Beginning today, students will have the opportunity to vote on two referendums that could drastically affect the look of the University of Wisconsin campus and the people who work on it.
This is the second in a two-part series addressing the referendums.
Student Labor Action Coalition members have continually expressed two goals for its Living Wage referendum.
Primarily, SLAC representatives said the referendum aims to raise the wages of University of Wisconsin employees earning less than a "living wage" and, secondly, to expand student-government power.
However, according to Vice Chancellor Darrell Bazzell and ASM Student Services Finance Committee Chair Rachelle Stone, the referendum, if approved, could do just the opposite.
Explicitly, the referendum would not allow ASM to allocate student segregated fee funding to "auxiliary budgets" — which includes the Wisconsin Unions, University Health Services and UW recreational sports — that do not pay workers a "living wage." A living wage is defined as a wage equal to or greater than 110 percent of the Federal Poverty Line.
In accordance with Wisconsin's state shared-governance laws, ASM has the authority to work in conjunction with the UW chancellor on deciding segregated-fee funding for various UW organizations.
The budgets are divided between "allocable budgets" — which include student organizations — and "auxiliary budgets" or "non-allocable budgets" — which include entities such as the Wisconsin Unions, University Health Services and UW recreational sports.
According to University of Wisconsin System Regent policy, representative student-government bodies, such as ASM, "shall have the responsibility for the disposition of 'allocable portions of … student fees'" and are "responsible for formulation of the allocable [segregated fees] budget."
However, questions about the role of student-government bodies regarding "non-allocable" budgets have been raised with the introduction of the living wage referendum.
The debate on the ultimate outcome of the referendum, should it be approved, centers on whether ASM has the authority to directly allocate funding for auxiliary budgets or merely make recommendations to the chancellor.
According to Vice Chancellor Darrell Bazzell, ASM can only play an advisory role in auxiliary budget funding decisions.
"Students have the right to advise the chancellor, but do not enjoy the right to approve or disapprove those budgets," Bazzell said in a March 23 interview.
Bazzell said then, and reaffirmed Monday, that should the living wage referendum pass, the student voice would be essentially removed from the segregated fee allocation process for auxiliary budgets.
By mandating that ASM can not approve funding for auxiliary budgets that do not pay workers a living wage, ASM would not be able to make a recommendation to the chancellor on how those budgets should be funded, Bazzell said. However, the chancellor would still be permitted to allocate funding to those budgets regardless of the provisions of the referendum, which applies only to ASM.
"My understanding of the provisions is that it would remove [ASM's] ability to advise," Bazzell said Monday.
Stone, chair of the ASM Student Services Finance Committee, which hears and amends organizations' segregated-fee budget proposals, agreed with Bazzell's assessment.
"The intention had been good, but cutting out a huge portion of the student process is problematic," Stone said. "The referendum could take some voice from the SSFC."
However, SLAC representative Joel Feingold and SLAC attorney Ben Manski, contend ASM does have the right to directly approve auxiliary budgets.
Both Feingold and Manski argued that a court has not yet resolved the issue and that if ASM were to be removed from the segregated-fee process, the university would be in violation of Wisconsin's shared-governance laws.
"It's actually the student body that drafts the budget for general student services," Manski said. "The chancellor has no role in that."
Feingold said the issue would have to be resolved by state courts if the UW administration attempted to block the referendum if it were approved.
Overall, though, Feingold said the primary goal of the referendum is to raise the wages of many UW employees.
"Right now, limited-term employees and students are working at a poverty wage," Feingold said. "And that's not enough to pay for basic needs in Madison."
All UW students have from 8 a.m. Tuesday to 8 p.m. Thursday to voice their support of or opposition to the referendum during an ASM online vote. Students can vote at http://vote.asm.wisc.edu.