State Employees to Rally for Contract and Budget

By: Dana Brueck
By: Dana Brueck

State workers boast of their quality public service. Governor Jim Doyle boasts of better, more cost effective government. But, in the meantime, the two sides have yet to iron out a new contract for 24, 000 state workers. Some of them will rally tomorrow at the Capitol.
Gary Mitchell oversees Bascom Hall's mail room.
He says, "we take a great deal of pride in doing a good job, serving citizens of Wisconsin."
But as this state employee stacks boxes for delivery, his worries also pile up.
"Many people talk about what's gonna happen with health insurance payback and how they can't afford to pay that back," Mitchell says.
Eight million dollars worth of health care premiums ...
The director for the office of state employment relations, Karen Timberlake, says " these are very valuable benefits the state has been providing in good faith to these employees. By the same token, the reason system works is because we've asked everybody to make contributions."
The state has picked up the cost of employee contributions for health care premiums for more than a year. It's one sticking point in contract negotiations with roughly 24, 000 state employees, who have worked under an old contract for nearly two years.
Marty Beil, the executive director for the Wisconsin State Employees Union Council 24, says "as determined as they are to collect it, we are just as determined to look for other solutions."
That frustration will show itself during a rally at the Capitol. Legislators can expect to see more than 100 buses bringing 2, 000 state workers to their doorstep.
"We have state employees who work very hard and are good at what they do who are being sacrificed for political reasons and that's wrong," Beil says.
Employees from all parts of the state will demonstrate ... their value, or how they "do it better."
Timberlake says, "that's a positive message. We agree that state employees have a lot of value they do high quality work. The governor, in his budget, set aside $268 million for state employee compensation in 2005-2007.
She also says ... it's only fair they also pay their share for health care.
"It's irritating. It's very anxious for a lot of people here," Mitchell says.
By law, most state employees cannot strike.
Union members plan to meet with their local legislators after tomorrow's rally.

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