Dane County Executive Joe Parisi introduced his proposed budget on October 1st. Within it, he includes 2 separate 3% wage increases for county employees; one to start at the beginning of the budget period in January 2022 and another to go into effect in July of 2022. Many county workers, however, are arguing against this percentage increase and are instead fighting for a flat-rate increase. Evelyn Mikul is one of those county workers. She is an economic support specialist for Dane county and the vice president of member organization and mobilization for AFSCME Local 720.
“Joe Parisi proposed a 6% raise for county employees. We are countering that we would like a flat-rate equivalent of that 6%,” said Mikul. “The reason for that is because the wage gap between the highest of Dane county’s employees and the lowest keeps increasing. The lowest-paid workers are the ones who have had to work in person throughout this pandemic. Now we want to see what’s right, we want to see what’s fair, we want to see what’s just. A flat-rate wage increase will do that.”
In 2016, the County budget included an across-the-board 87 cent per hour pay increase, which is about one dollar and one cent in today’s terms. Since then, the county has done percentage increases for all years except for in 2020 when there was no increase.
Mikul explained what these percentage-rate increases have done for pay of county employees, saying “the gap [in 2016] between the highest-paid manager, which is range M17 Step 9, is $65.56 an hour, and that is a difference of $49 an hour between the lowest paid. That increase is up to $54 an hour between the two. The gap is only widening, it’s mirroring what is going on in the country, and it’s not right.”
What the union is proposing to help close this gap is a $1.00 an hour raise for the start of the budget in January and a $1.03 an hour raise for July. Their goal is to spread the same total expense of Executive Parisi’s proposal across all county employees evenly. The union’s proposal would result in about a 10.5% pay increase for someone currently making $19 an hour and a 5% increase for someone currently making $40 an hour.
Union members have been doing a number of things to try to win this flat-rate. “We have been speaking in front of the County Board, we have been speaking in front of Personnel and Finance,” said Mikul. “We’ve got Facebook ads out. The AFL-CIO has also launched an email campaign for us.”
The timeline for a decision is coming very quickly on this issue. The Dane County Personnel and Finance Committee will meet to debate on budget amendments like this one next week. The Personnel and Finance Committee will then give a proposal to the full County Board, which will meet and decide the week of November 8. In addition to Executive Parisi’s proposal, there are three other amendments put forward. One is what the union is advocating for, the $1.00 and $1.03 increases; another keeps both 3% increases but adds a 24-cent raise for the lowest paid quarter of employees; the last is a $1.00 an hour raise in January and then a 3% raise in July.
Mikul hopes that people in the community will help county workers in this campaign, saying “call your county board sup[ervisor]. Email them. If you see them in the coffee shop, remind them that a flat-wage increase is what’s fair and what’s right”
Image: Photograph of the City-County building. Photo credit Scot McCullough