Dane County workers organized with AFSCME Local 720 have been working for the last month on getting what they see as a fairer pay adjustment into the county budget for 2022. On Wednesday night, the County Personnel and Finance Committee voted down the union’s preferred amendment to have a flat two-dollar and three-cent raise for all county workers rather than County Executive Joe Parisi’s proposal for a 6% increase. That committee ultimately approved an amendment that added a 24-cent raise to the lowest-paid quarter of workers in addition to Parisi’s proposed 6%. That amendment will go to the full county board on Monday for final approval.
However, another proposal put forward today by Board Chair Analiese Eicher has workers celebrating. Chair Eicher’s proposal combines the best scenario for all workers at whatever pay by increasing pay by two-dollars and three-cents an hour for anyone making less than $33.34 and increasing pay by 6% for anyone making more than $33.34. That $33.34 dividing point is the amount where the two scenarios would give the same pay increase, in effect meaning that all workers get whichever of the two options would offer them a greater raise.
Evelyn Mikul is an economic support specialist for Dane County and the vice president of member organization and mobilization for AFSCME Local 720. “Our essential workers, our BIPOC staff, those that we have been campaigning for, they are going to get their flat wage increase,” she said today to Labor Radio.
The union emphasized how percentage increases have only widened the income and wealth disparities among county workers. For example, a worker making $19 an hour who gets a 6% raise will see a raise of $1.14, whereas a worker making $34 an hour will get $2.04 from that same 6%. This proposed amendment, if is passes, will mean that the worker making $19 an hour will get an additional 89-cents-an-hour pay increase compared to Parisi’s proposal.
“The amendment is going to provide a lift for everyone,” said Board Chair Eicher. “Some members of the board, along with some of our employee groups, were requesting a larger boost for folks at the bottom at of our pay scale. We’ve spent the last month working on figuring out some sort of compromise that would lift everyone up. So the amendment that I’m hoping will be passed and adopted on Monday night by the County Board is an amendment that will boost our employees’ wages by a flat-rate if that is how they will benefit and then everyone else will receive a 6% cost-of-living adjustment.”
The Union did a lot of organizing around this issue and, while the final decision still won’t come until Monday, they are feeling very optimistic. In the last weeks, they have been speaking at board and committee meetings and the South Central Federation of Labor has done an email campaign with the local. At the Personnel and Finance Committee two days ago, the unions organizing efforts bore 145 people registering in support of their favored amendment with just 1 person registering against. Though their amendment failed that night, they are very hopeful about Eicher’s newest proposal.
Mikul from AFSCME local 720 knows that this was the work of many people. “We want to thank all of our members for all of the support that they’ve given us, all of the registrations that they’ve been doing, all the testimonials,” she said. “We want to thank Supervisors Schauer and Chawla for supporting us with their amendments. We want to especially thank Supervisor Eicher for coming up with this proposal that will give everyone what they asked for.”
The final decision will be made by the full county board on Monday.
Photograph of the City-County building. Photo credit Scot McCullough