Late yesterday afternoon, a crowd of about 20 people gathered at the windy State Street steps of the capitol building with a loudspeaker and a birthday cake. They were there to celebrate the 117th anniversary of the founding of Wisconsin’s civil service system, a system designed to form a permanent qualified staff of government employees presumably outside the reach of political threats and patronage. Barbara Smith is a member of the Wisconsin Professional Employee Council AFT Local 4848, or WPEC. She explained the origins of the group organizing the birthday party, the Wisconsin Coalition to Save Civil Service, which started under the anti-worker administration of former governor Scott Walker.
Organized labor members of the Wisconsin Coalition to Save Civil Service include WPEC; the South Central Federation of Labor; AFSCME Locals 1 and 171 and Retirees Subchapter 52; the American Federation of Teachers–Wisconsin; and Wisconsin Science Professionals AFT Local 3732. Other member organizations include the Association of Career Employees; the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign; Protect Our Retirement Systems, or POWRS; the NAACP–Dane County Branch 36AB; and Progressive Dane. Jamie McCarville is a member of WPEC and has been a Wisconsin state employee since 1999. She has seen massive losses of state workers and subsequent growth in private contractors, a situation that to her seems to serve neither state nor contracted workers.
Bill Franks is a former chief steward and a retired member of AFT Local 4848, and is the current chair of the Labor and Industry Committee of NAACP–Dane County. He says that the attack on civil service under the Walker administration was invigorated by that administration’s earlier successful attacks on public employee unions.
Franks explained the idea behind civil service.
Mark Rothschild of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign addressed the event, summarizing the dire role of the Walker administration in the attack on the state’s civil service system.
Rothschild said that the ongoing attacks on government employees are part of a larger nationwide campaign to undermine normal government operations, attack unions, and, ultimately, destroy all democratic institutions here.
That was Mark Rothschild of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, speaking yesterday at a rally celebrating and calling for the protection of the Wisconsin civil service system.
Reporting Courtesy of Greg Geboski for Labor Radio
Image Courtesy of Greg Geboski