Labor Leaders Given Advance Notice of Legislative Action, Ahead of GOP, Public and Press

MacIver News Service | December 6, 2010

WSEU Letter to Union Members Notes Urgency of Ratification Before ‘Walker Administration Takes Over’

[Madison, Wisconsin] The leaders of Wisconsin’s largest government employee union encouraged their members to ratify the tentative labor agreement before Republican Governor-elect Scott Walker is in a position to negotiate tougher terms. The labor leaders also appear to have been given a heads up as to the upcoming legislative calendar, a courtesy so far not extended to legislative Republicans or the general public.

“We, along with the bargaining teams, felt that it was important that we have a contract in place before the incoming Walker Administration takes over,” wrote WSEU President Robert McLinn and Executive Director Marty Beil in a letter mailed to union members sent last month along with a summary of language changes to the current contract.

The MacIver Institute published the summary of changes last week.

The revelation of WSEU letter could affirm Republican’s assertions that the outgoing Doyle Administration and state labor leaders rushed to reach the agreements after the November election after talks had languished for more than 18 months.

“As we have publicly said, this new administration and legislature will present significant challenges to state workers, state public services and working men and women in general, including their Unions,” McLinn and Beil wrote. “We know that leadership in the current legislature is organizing a special session during the week of 12/13/2010 to ratify these and other bargaining units.”

The WSEU letter is the first indication that a timeline for a special session has been set. Democratic leadership, who currently control the legislature but will be in the minority in both houses come January 3, 2010, have not commented on a possible schedule. Republicans have called on both Democratic Governor Jim Doyle and the Democratic legislative leadership to not hold such as session.

Only one time in the 162-year history of the State of Wisconsin has a lame-duck legislature approved such agreements, when one contract was approved in November of 1974.

“In light of the State of Wisconsin’s current fiscal year $150 million budget shortfall and impending $3.3 billion structural deficit, returning and newly elected officials are going to need maximum flexibility to craft and work through our current and next state budget,” Walker wrote in the letter to current Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker (D-Weston) and his replacement, current Senate Minority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) last week. Current Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan (D-Janesville) and incoming Speaker, current Assembly Leader Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon) also received the letter from the Governor-elect.

Special and extraordinary sessions are similar in that they are called solely to consider one or more specified topics or pieces of legislation. A special session is called by the governor and an extraordinary session is initiated by the legislature.