An attorney for the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission has concluded that the state was unfair to the Wisconsin State Employees Union, but not enough harm was done to justify delaying a vote by state correctional officers on whether to break away and form their own union.
If commissioners accept the proposed finding, they likely would meet by early May to set a date for a certification vote for the spin-off group, agency general counsel Peter Davis said Friday.
“There could be an order stating that an election must take place within 45 days of their decision,” Davis said, adding that the state employees union can still raise objections that the commission would consider.
The defection of 5,700 prison guards and other state employees would further sting the state workers’ union, which is already reeling from the effects of Act 10 of 2011, a state law that removed most public sector union rights.
WSEU’s dues-paying membership of 22,000 dwindled to less than 10,000 after Republicans in state government all but eliminated collective bargaining, halted automatic dues deductions and erected tough obstacles to maintaining state certification. As dues income fell, the union’s organizing staff has been cut. WSEU executive director Marty Beil didn’t respond to requests for comment Friday.
Sally Stix, attorney for the prison guard group, said WSEU simply doesn’t want to lose the dues the break-away employee group would pay if Act 10 is overturned.
Wisconsin Association for Correctional Law Enforcement interim president Brian Cunningham said that if his group is certified as a union, even with vastly decreased collective bargaining rights, members will have standing to talk with state officials about pay raises and improved working conditions.
Beil has maintained that certifying under Act 10 is too costly and time-consuming and that the correctional officer leaders are mistaken if they think a smaller union will win anything of substance from the state.
WSEU filed complaints alleging that state officials were giving the dissident group unfair advantages as they organized.
In his proposed finding of fact, Davis agreed with WSEU in saying the state Department of Corrections managers engaged in unfair labor practices twice last year when they ordered an employee to remove WSEU clothing. The union protested, and within a short period of time department officials told supervisors that non-uniformed workers could wear “union apparel.”
In a document dated Friday, Davis recommended dismissal of four other complaints and suggested that the election take place as soon as possible.