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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Monday, May 20, 2024

State workers to rally for raises

UW-Madison students and Wisconsin state employees will rally at the Capitol today in support of more competitive wages and increased benefits for state workers as part of the Student and Labor Day of Action.  




The employees, who hold various classified UW-Madison positions, are requesting a wage increase as well as more paid time off.  




According to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees local 171, more than 34,000 state employees have been working without a contract since July 1 and are not satisfied with the current contract proposed by the Wisconsin Legislature.  




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UW-Madison custodial workers receive $8.68 per hour, 20 percent less than 15 years ago when compared to inflation, said Mark Thomas, a Blue Collar representative on the Council 24 Bargaining Team.  




'If you have a family and are living on these wages, you are living in poverty,' Thomas said.  




Kevin Boatright, assistant vice president of UW System Communications, said he too was anxious about the UW System classified employees' situation.  




'We've been concerned for awhile,' he said. 'We are supportive of the [employees'] desire to receive competitive wages they can live with,' he said. 




The state offered a 5.5 percent life-of-contract wage increase for state workers to begin July 2001, even though the predicted inflation rate of the U.S. economy was near 7 percent. 




Employees are also concerned with the level of turnover in various state agencies. 




'We're hoping to bring out the short term thinking of the government office,' Thomas said. 'They are spending more money on hiring new people ... than on keeping their current employees.'  




The governor's office was not available to comment on the rally.  




A similar situation began Oct. 1 when Minnesota's two largest state unions rejected contract offers and went on strike for more than two weeks, leaving almost 23,000 state positions vacant. Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura was forced to deploy nearly 1,000 National Guard members to fill the state's most specific positions, such as nursing home employees.  




An agreement was reached Oct. 15, giving AFSCME Council 6 employees a 3.5 percent wage increase and a cap on prescription drug co-pays, while the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees received a 3 percent raise.  




According to Bill Franks, chair of the Bargaining Support Committee of American Federation of Teachers local 4848, there will not be a strike in Wisconsin, as it is illegal to do so.  




'[A strike] would signify a certain sign of desperation in a pretty high-risk situation,' he said. 'Even though we are getting signs from the governor and his folks that they are not willing to bend, that may not totally be the case.'  




The state workers rally will begin at 4:30 p.m. on the King Street corner of Capitol Square. Students will meet at Library Mall at 3:30 p.m. and will then march to the Capitol.

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