By DANA FERGUSON
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Marty Beil, whom many call the face of public employee unions in Wisconsin, said Wednesday that he is retiring.
Beil, 68, said in a statement that he will retire as executive director of the Wisconsin State Employees Union American Federation of State, Municipal and County Employees Council 24 at the end of the month. He has held the position for 30 years.
After his union merged with two other state unions earlier this year, Beil said he thought it was a good time to leave union leadership to a younger generation of workers.
“I figured it was time for me to give them the ball and let them carry it into the 21st Century,” Beil said told The Associated Press.
In 1969, Beil started as a Wisconsin probation and parole officer and soon became involved in the union, becoming president of his local chapter in 1973. He was elected president of the Wisconsin State Employees union in 1978 and held the position until 1985, when he was selected as the union’s executive director.
Beil was a vocal opponent of Gov. Scott Walker’s landmark Act 10 proposal in 2011. The law effectively ended collective bargaining for nearly all of the state employees Beil’s union represented.
He was a mainstay in the protests that lasted for weeks and attracted as many as 100,000 demonstrators.
Chris Martin, Republican Party of Wisconsin spokesman, blasted Beil in a statement Wednesday.
“Marty Beil tried to divide our state with pugnacious rhetoric and baseless attacks, yet Wisconsin’s economy is thriving thanks to Scott Walker and our Republican Legislature’s bold reforms,” Martin said.
Beil responded to the comment in a phone interview saying it was Walker, not he, who divided the state.
“We’re not the ones saying, ‘Divide and conquer.’ That’s been Walker’s motto,” Beil said.
Walker’s spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking a comment.
Beil said the Republican efforts to eliminate the state’s unions will likely continue.
“I think the commitment from Republicans to kill unions is from top to bottom,” Beil said. “They’re going to spread their vile stuff. … My retirement isn’t going to stop them.”
Although Republican measures have weakened that state’s unions, Beil said he believes workers will succeed.
“In spite of Act 10, Scott Walker, Robin Vos, Scott Fitzgerald, the ‘tea party’ and every other nut job that is out there, I have a strong message,” Beil said in a statement. “Workers will eventually prevail. Working families will once again set the agenda.”Follow @bydanaferguson