Union leaders turned out to demand Wisconsin's leadership make the "right choices" for it public service employees. More than a thousand state workers voiced their concerns as the joint legislative finance committee considers the governor's budget.
Corrections workers first took their concerns to DOC headquarters, then, to the state capitol.
"We haven't had a contract in almost two years now," Rusty Schramm, a DOC vocational school teacher, says.
An overdue contract has caused state workers to rally ... loud and clear for what they want.
"What do we want," they shouted. "A contract!"
" Working in the prison system is not an easy job," Schramm says.
Schramm tries to build futures by teaching inmates to lay bricks.
"Once skills are acquired, then a person can get an apprenticeship, go on to get a journeyman and before you know it they're successful," he says.
He says that success saves Wisconsin money ...
"They leave and never come back ... "
But Schramm says the success depends on people like these ... state employees.
Schramm says, "the state has offered us what amounts to a pay cut ... zero percent the first year, one percent the second year and you take over paying your insurance ... the math doesn't work out as any kind of a raise."
Karen Timberlake, the director for the office of state employment relations, says "the state was facing a $3.2 billion deficit, so the governor asked all parts of state government to be a part of the solution."
The state also wants workers to share the cost of health care premiums. It has picked up the cost of employee contributions for more than a year.
"It's not a lot. These are relatively modest contributions," Timberlake says.
But they add up to $8 million for the state.
"The state made the deal with us that they were covering our insurance, they did that when it was convenient," Schramm says.
The state has opened its contract offer for 2005-2007 at a five percent pay raise over two years.
A monthly health care premium for a family plan under the state's most cost effective proposal averages about $55 per month.
The director for the office of state employment relations says the governor values and appreciates the work of state employees.