With provisions of the state law curbing collective bargaining rights for many public employee unions on hold, the Dane County Board of Supervisors will soon begin negotiations with unions on county employees’ contracts for 2016.
After the last round of negotiations did not occur because of Act 10, Dane County officials and the local branch of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the union for many Dane County employees, will again be bargaining on contracts, according to County Board Chair John Hendrick.
“Our personal finance committee [will begin] negotiations for a contract in 2016, and that is taking advantage of Judge Colas’s hold on provisions of Act 10,” Supervisor Leland Pan, District 5, said.
Provisions in Act 10 were put on hold by Dane County Judge Juan Colas earlier this month when he ruled parts of the law are unconstitutional. Colas’ ruling has already been appealed to the state Supreme Court, which is set to hear oral arguments in the suit beginning Nov. 11.
According to Pan, the board has guaranteed regular communication with the union as an important part of the county board policy by including the concept in the county board handbook.
He said handbook rules require this type of cooperation.
“We ensure that we have in the handbook that we regularly negotiate with our union,” Pan said. “It’s not as formalized as state law, so it’s not in violation of Act 10, but essentially we have to uphold our employee handbook as county rule.”
Hendrick said should Colas’ ruling be overturned, bargaining would not take place and the county would have to stop in the middle if they had not settled on a contract.
If the board reaches a contract, however, Hendrick said the contract would be constitutionally protected.
Several county board supervisors stand behind Colas’ decision to deem Act 10 unconstitutional, Hendrick said.
Supervisor Chuck Erickson, District 13, said he supports the decision, as it enables the county to have a positive relationship with employees and negotiate with them successfully.
“In Dane County, we have always gotten along with our unions and worked together,” Erickson said. “This has been a constructive relationship. I support doing this if it’s feasible. I also think it’s good for planning ahead for our economic…future [and] finances and planning ahead.”
Hendrick predicted the negotiations for contracts will take place between AFSCME and the county bargaining team within the next week.
Pan said regardless of what happens with Act 10 in the higher court, the county is looking forward to resuming negotiations with its employees.
“Whatever the situation with Act 10, we at the county are very much supportive of looking to work with workers and to ensure that workers have a voice,” Pan said.