Grievances from county employees, once handled by the collective bargaining mechanisms of state unions, will now fall under the jurisdiction of local municipalities as a result of the state’s new union law.
This responsibility was transferred to municipalities after Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair legislation was signed into law, which tempered many public workers’ collective bargaining rights.
Consequently, grievance procedures, which had previously been included within the collective bargaining agreements, were expunged, leaving the responsibility of determining a new system for dealing with termination, workplace safety, discipline and employee complaints to the municipalities.
Cullen Werwie, spokesperson for Walker, said Wisconsin workers can expect to continue receiving protection from state agencies.
“State workers will continue to receive protections under Wisconsin’s civil service protections,” Werwie said. “Their grievances will go through the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission.”
Although police, fire personnel and administrative managers were exempt from the collective bargaining law, other unionized groups such as construction workers, carpenters, electricians and many others are subject to the new stipulations, he said.
Ald. Scott Resnick, District 8, said while it is not yet known when City Council will take up the issue or how the city would be affected, the city is well-equipped to handle the transfer of responsibility.
“Madison as a city entity has a better infrastructure to handle grievances because of the size of our city and the number of employees,” he said. “This will probably put Madison in a better position than smaller municipalities.”
Donald Moynihan, a spokesperson for the La Follette School of Public Affairs, said in order to be able to adequately manage themselves, governments need a certain “basic level of capacity.”
Wisconsin is organized in a manner in which it is comprised of a lot of small municipalities, he said, which in result makes it a very decentralized state.
Moynihan said the repair bill shifts a lot of administrative responsibility onto local governments, which is fine for those like Madison with the capacity to manage this responsibility, but could prove to be a larger, more complicated ordeal for small towns and villages.
However, Moynihan said there is a possibility that many municipalities will essentially reinstate the old agreements.
“The budget repair bill has created a good deal more uncertainty for municipalities in managing all aspects of human resources,” Moynihan said. “My guess is that many of them would prefer not to have to reinvent the wheel.”
He added there is a chance that other governmental municipalities will take advantage of their newly-granted authority and, as a result, there is a chance that we will soon start hearing stories of unjust labor practices.