PEOPLE-Local 645

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Posted by Chris Liebenthal on June 26, 2009

Man, what a long stressful month this has been. I’ve been trying to balance too many things, all the while with the Sword of Damacles hovering above my head.

Well, today the sword got a little closer:

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker has the right to shorten the workweek for county workers to 35 hours to help the county cope with its financial problems, Reserve Judge Dennis J. Flynn said in a decision issued Friday.

That means that Walker’s order to shorten the workweek for employees will take effect Monday, unless an arbitrator rules that his actions violated the county’s labor contract. The arbitrator said he would issue a decision before Monday but had not done so by mid-afternoon Friday.

It was disappointing news, of course. Then again, it wasn’t completely unexpected.

While Judge Flynn made his ruling to deny the injunction, it is not the end of the world. After all, the union was only seeking a temporary order from the Court.

The arbitrator still has to come out with his decision. This is the decision that will have a more serious impact, and one that we feel more hopeful about. The arbitrator will be making two decisions, if I understand it correctly. One will be if Walker was in the right to do this. Not in the sense of does he necessarily have the authority, but if a projected .03% deficit constitutes a financial crisis. And, if for some unfathomable reason, he agrees that it does, the arbitrator then has to define “temporary.”

So you see, there is still hope. On the other hand, if the arbitrator rules against the union, I can’t complain. I just have to look at the poor souls in Janesville and in Kenosha that have no jobs to keep things in proper perspective. Being put on an unjust furlough would be better than being unfairly laid off.

And if we are furloughed, and/or laid off, we will still not be the ones hurt the worst. I cannot think of the ripples that will be echoing through the community with the predictable consequences of Walker’s grandstanding. Elderly citizens and disabled people will have to go a while longer without services.

Mentally ill people will have to struggle with their illnesses on their own for a while longer. Of course, that can have really, really bad effects. Things like police officers getting shot by a guy that wasn’t receiving the proper care and support, due to Walker’s previous cut backs.

And the citizens will have to pay the price for Walker’s “fiscal responsibility,” either with their safety and with higher taxes to cover the shortfalls that Walker creates, like he cause with the call center.

Some people will blow me and my arguments off, just because I work for the county, or because I am active in my union, or just because I am liberal. But I would ask people to think about why Walker is doing this. Is it because the County is facing such a fiscal crisis? No. A .03% projected deficit is not a crisis.

Then why? Two reasons, really. One is that the County and the unions are in contract negotiations. Every time negotiations come up, Walker pulls this same kind of crap, although this year is more egregious than others. The County has faced years where the mid-season budget was in a real deficit, but it was always balanced, without harming the vulnerable, the tax payers or the workers.

But that kind of thinking must be above Walker’s pay grade. Or maybe it requires some time in college doing something besides losing elections and dropping out.

The first reason for Walker’s behavior, trying to scare the unions, feeds into the second reason. He’s running for governor. He thinks that he will impress more people by neglecting his citizens, putting them in harm’s way, and still raising their taxes will win him votes, as long as he keeps them distracted with his “no tax” song and dance.

He must think all people are as mean-spirited and short-sighted as he is.

On the other hand, being furloughed isn’t too bad either. It gives me another hour each day to cause mischief. And it also means when I take a day off, I only use seven hours instead of eight. Some quick calculating shows that if Walker does get his way, and furloughs us for the rest of the year, he has given me a little more than three extra vacation days. Who would complain about that?! And that will help me get one of my pet projects really rolling.

On the other hand, why I am rambling on like this? It is getting into the later part of the evening, and I still have a long ways to go. I can’t do anything about the job situation anyway, so I might as well go home and try to ease my soul, and remember who I am and what I am fighting for.

Have a good weekend, everybody.


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