By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) – The Wisconsin State Employees Union wants state lawmakers to pressure Gov. Scott Walker’s administration to begin negotiating with it over salary increases for 22,000 state workers.
The union sent letters Tuesday to state lawmakers from both parties to follow up on its request made to Walker’s administration on Aug. 18. The union made the letter public on Wednesday.
Under the new collective bargaining law passed this year, public employees retain the right to bargain over wage increases no greater than the rate of inflation. They lost the right to bargain over anything else.
The union’s director, Marty Beil, said that means employees could bargain for raises up to 3.6 percent for the contract period that began in July.
Beil said he’s heard nothing in response from Walker’s administration to either request. Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie said the state’s Office of State Employment Relations, which handles contract negotiations, was preparing a response to AFSCME and other bargaining units that made similar requests.
Walker refused to negotiate with the unions even before he unveiled his proposal in February taking away nearly all of their collective bargaining rights. After union leaders agreed to pay more for their pensions and health care benefits, as Walker proposed, he did not negotiate with them on the other parts of the bill, including removal of automatic payment of dues and a requirement that unions vote annually to stay together.
Beil said Walker has shown a willful disregard for negotiation with union leaders.
“He’s chosen not to work with the union that represents the large majority of state employees from the very first day he’s taken office,” Beil said.
Given what little there is to negotiate over — essentially how to determine the Consumer Price Index — talks should take a matter of hours, not weeks or months, Beil said.
If there is no response from Walker, other steps including pressuring state lawmakers and legal action would be considered, Beil said.