Monday, February 21, 2011

From our City Manager:

Public Employee Collective Bargaining

On February 15, the Eau Claire City Council became the first local legislative body in Wisconsin to adopt a resolution opposing Governor Walker’s proposal to prohibit public employee collective bargaining. In approving the resolution on a 10-0 vote, the City Council affirmed that:
  • Skilled public employees and proactive employee unions are intrinsic to the Wisconsin tradition of innovative and progressive public service and have been instrumental in the provision of quality public services for residents and businesses in the Eau Claire community;
  • Good faith public sector collective bargaining is critical for the long-term delivery of innovative and cost-effective public services;
  • Eau Claire has a long history of productive relationships with our public employees and our public unions; and
  • Ending public employee collective bargaining would assist neither the State of Wisconsin nor the City of Eau Claire in addressing current or future budget challenges.
The resolution concluded that
.... the City of Eau Claire stands in solidarity with the hard working men and women of the public sector and thanks them for their invaluable contribution to our community through plowing our streets, keeping our families safe, maintaining our water services, staffing the library, cleaning our parks, putting out fires, driving our buses, cleaning our schools, and teaching our children.
I have been asked several times by local media over the past week why I oppose the Governor’s proposal to end collective bargaining and whether it simply wouldn’t make my job as city manager easier if I didn’t have to “deal with employee unions.”

As city manager I am categorically opposed to the Governor’s attempt to end public employee collective bargaining. Skilled and dedicated public employees and pro-active public employee unions are intrinsic to the Wisconsin tradition of innovative and progressive public service. Good faith public sector collective bargaining by both labor and management is critical for the long term delivery of high quality and cost effective public services.

As city manager I am well-acquainted with all aspects of employee collective bargaining, from negotiating labor contracts, to hearing grievances, to working through grievances, mediation, arbitration, and litigation. In Eau Claire we have a long history of strong and pro-active city employee unions, and I have had many vigorous discussions with our employee groups across the bargaining table. I would not have it any other way. Our employees ask tough, pointed, and well-informed questions about improving public services, reducing costs, and being treated fairly. I know because I have been willing to meet with them and to listen to what they have to say. I do my best to answer their questions in the context of our mutual commitment to serving Eau Claire residents and businesses. At the end of the day what we all have is better service delivery, better government, and a better community.

The substance of the Governor’s proposal to eliminate public employee collective bargaining would be a disastrous public policy for Wisconsin and for the Eau Claire community. The process by which the proposal has been rushed forward is already a blight on the Wisconsin tradition of democracy.


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