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Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2010

Issue of the Week: Scott Walker’s Bad Faith Budgets

Plus Hero and Jerk of the Week

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How bad was Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker’s 2010 budget?

This bad:

“While the county was negotiating a tentative agreement with the union [AFSCME District Council 48], it was simultaneously, and on a parallel track, developing a budget predicated on wage and benefit concessions which had never been presented to the union. If the County Executive believed that the agreement the County Director of Labor Relations was about to enter into was so flawed that it would be subject to his veto he had an obligation to make that known through the bargaining process.”

So wrote William C. Houlihan, examiner for the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission on Oct. 21, in his scorching conclusion that the county had bargained in bad faith when crafting the 2010 budget. That was when the county’s labor negotiator created a tentative agreement with AFSCME, which was approved by two county board committees in September 2009. But just a day later, Walker presented a 2010 budget that included $32 million worth of concessions that had not been proposed to the union. The full county board then rejected the tentative agreement and scaled back some of Walker’s concessions. But the county’s final budget included provisions that did not resemble the original tentative agreement. And that’s a “bad faith” budget.

Unfortunately, Walker used the same tactics—single-handedly mandating millions of wage and benefit concessions that should be bargained with the union instead—when creating his structurally unsound 2011 proposed budget.

Why? Because Walker would rather posture with his “no-new-taxes” budget instead of bargaining fairly, as the law requires, with his represented employees.

Rich Abelson, head of AFSCME DC 48, said Walker’s habit of negotiating with the union via his budgets “is just compounding a longstanding problem. The solution is to sit down and negotiate a labor agreement that both sides can live with. But we’ve seen absolutely no indication that the county is ready to do that.”

Until then, both the 2010 and soon-to-be-finalized 2011 budgets will remain unresolved.

Hero of the Week

Roy on the #15 Bus

In the early afternoon of Oct. 29, a passenger became ill on the Milwaukee County Transit System’s #15 line, which was heading south on Kinnickinnic Avenue. A passenger, who gave his name only as “Roy,” came to the aid of his fellow rider, who was suffering from a violent seizure. While others quickly distanced themselves from the situation, Roy immobilized the passenger and turned him on his side to prevent the man from injuring himself or choking, then remained with the man until paramedics from the Milwaukee Fire Department arrived.

Witnesses said that following the incident, “Roy” quietly took his seat and returned to reading his copy of the Shepherd Express. For his courage in stepping forward to help a complete stranger in distress, we make this Shepherd reader our Hero of the Week.

Jerk of the Week

WTMJ-AM’s Charlie Sykes

We thought that right-wing radio talker Charlie Sykes had hit a new low by using his show to support Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker—without disclosing that Walker’s campaign chair also employs Sykes’ wife at the uber-conservative Bradley Foundation. But we were wrong. Sykes has been actively campaigning and fund-raising for his preferred Republican candidates. Sykes (and fellow WTMJ-er James T. Harris) were special guests at an Elm Grove fund-raiser for Republican state Senate candidate Leah Vukmir, which Charlie also hyped on his show, and Sykes emceed a rally for U.S. Senate candidate Ron Johnson in Oshkosh just last week, which the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on with a straight face. Even worse, Journal Communications, which owns both the Journal Sentinel and WTMJ, apparently condones Sykes’ transition from a talk-show host to an official fund-raiser and his use of its company resources to aid his candidates.