The Daily Cardinal - Opinion
Issue: 02/13/02

McCallum's proposal harms workers
By Sarah Turner

Governor Scott McCallum's budget proposal is a disaster for workers in Wisconsin. The governor has proposed a hiring freeze for state jobs, and many Democrats in the state legislature are going along with the plan. The state hiring freeze is being touted by some as good fiscal policy, but public service employees are angry.

Recently in Wauwatosa, Wis., the governor was given a chilly reception while trying to sell his economic plan to the public. McCallum was introduced by one of his several business contributors as "our captain of the ship of state." Dozens of uniformed firefighters countered with shouts of "The ship is sinking!" The president of the firefighters union told The Capital Times Feb. 9, "We do not believe communities can withstand the drastic reductions proposed by the governor without affecting staffing and response time."

Many public service employees share the firefighters' concerns and are shocked at the governor's lack of appreciation for their hard work. As the backbone of the state of Wisconsin, public employees deserve better. McCallum's plan slashes state funding for vital community services such as firefighters and rescue staff. Job security for Wisconsin's workers is also in jeopardy.

The loss of permanent classified staff at UW-Madison is a good example of what will continue under McCallum's plan. For the past several years the Wisconsin state budget has been balanced by increasing tuition, freezing public service employee wages and using limited-term employee labor to fill permanent positions. This fiscal policy hurts students as well as public employees.

UW-Madison can't possibly cut the necessary food, clerical and custodial services needed by a growing undergraduate population. Instead, UW System administrators will likely create temporary or LTE jobs with no health insurance, sick days, retirement savings, job security or union representation for the public employees. Trimming the budget "fat" has resulted in trimming the rights of workers.

Long-term LTEs are subjected to humiliating misclassification that leaves them vulnerable to abuse by their employers. Managers in every UW-Madison department simply rehire LTEs for the same position year after year, with some UW-Madison employees labeled as LTEs for 10 to 25 years.

An example of one long-term LTE is Wanda Ashman. As a DARS encoder for the College of Agriculture, Wanda was an LTE at UW-Madison for over 9 years. Now, at 52 years old, she has no retirement savings and was fired from her position after speaking to journalists and state legislators about her situation. When Wanda's job was finally converted to a permanent position, Dean Dick Barrows hired someone else. Apparently, it was decided that Wanda didn't score high enough on the employment exam for a job she held for almost decade.

Now the College of Agriculture is spending hundreds of dollars sending their new hire to the University of Ohio for job training. If Wanda Ashman had been protected by the public service employees union contract that represents UW state employees, Wisconsin students would not be footing the bill for constant employee retraining.

A coalition of local city officials and public employees have begun a campaign to stop McCallum's proposals to slash state aid to cities. Chancellor Wiley should also publicly denounce McCallum's plan that hurts UW System students. Defunding the university system will not only result in crippling tuition hikes for students, but will also wrongly injure Wisconsin workers.

The state budget deficit should not be used to undermine workers rights or affordable access to education. Raising taxes for ordinary citizens would be unnecessary if corporations paid their fair share. People in Wisconsin should follow the firefighters example by expressing their displeasure at every McCallum campaign event. Derailing his election campaign will put Wisconsin back on track.

The Student and Labor Action Coalition will be holding an informational meeting about the abuse of LTE's on campus Thursday, Feb. 21 in the Memorial Union at 7 p.m., TITU.

Sarah Turner is a senior majoring in sociology and a member of the SLAC. Her column runs every Wednesday in The Daily Cardinal.