Fourteen hundred Madison general municipal employees are lagging behind fire and police employees in wage increases. Yesterday, Madison’s common council passed a resolution to close that gap.
The measure — which passed 19-1, with Alder Keith Furman as the lone hold-out — will match General Municipal employees’ pay increase schedule with protective service employees by January 2024. That will be achieved through a cumulative six percent salary raise over the next two years.
Alder Furman raised concerns that the measure doesn’t specifically call for a modification to the city’s budget to allow for the increases. Madison is poised to begin its 2022 budget negotiations in the next few weeks.
“So if we pass this, and we can’t afford it in the budget, then we’ve passed a resolution that made us feel good, but it ends up being what it is,” he said.
The process will kick off with a one percent raise this coming January. City general employees can expect additional increases in January and July of 2023 and January 2024.
If protective services employees receive a pay raise higher than general municipal employees before 2025, that raise will also be extended to general municipal employees.
Dan Rolfs is a member of the Madison Professional & Supervisory Employees Association, which advocates for City of Madison employees. Rolfs, who also works in the city’s office of real estate services, says morale among Madison’s employees is low — and a pay raise would likely go a ways towards increasing that morale.
“Employee morale is not where it should be. The best way to describe it is, in The Lord of the Rings, they ask Bilbo how he feels at the end of his life and he says, ‘I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.’ That’s probably a reasonable description from an awful lot of staff,” Rolfs said. “There’s too much toast and not a lot of butter. You try to spread your time around to cover all the items you need to cover.”
In the wake of 2011’s Act Ten, public sector unions had their collective bargaining rights gutted. The law largely left those rights intact for police and fire employees, hence the pay raise disparity.
Also affected by Act Ten? Nurses at UW Health hospital.
In 2014, those nurses lost their union when their contract expired. UW Health administrators hold that Act Ten bars them from negotiating a new contract.
At their meeting yesterday, Madison’s alders rejected that argument. The city council voted unanimously to support holding a new union election at the hospital.
Aaron Signer, a registered nurse at UW Health, says that the hospital’s administrators have taken an increasingly top-down approach to management in recent years.
“When UW nurses had our union, there was true collaboration between us and management, and we were a part of the real decision-making process,” Signer said. “Since then, the collaborative environment has gone away, and UW Health is run in a top-down manner. All decisions are made by those in the executive suite, without any input of those at the bedside and frontlines.”
Amanda Klinge, another UW Health nurse, says that top-down management approach has exacerbated staffing shortages at the hospital. A May 2020 report by Wisconsin’s Department of Workforce Development finds that the state, as a whole, will likely be short roughly 10,000 nurses by 2030.
“Understaffing has been a dire problem for years and the pandemic has transformed this issue into a full-blown crisis,” Klinge said. “It seems like they use business models to determine how to deploy resources such as staffing in the hospital.”
Also last night, the council voted to push ahead with two proposals to establish temporary homeless shelters on Bartillon Drive and Zeier Road. The purchase of those properties wasn’t finalized, but was referred out to city committees for consideration.
Notably, the Zeier Road location is the exact site the city proposed for a permanent men’s homeless shelter earlier this year. That proposal was shot down after area residents and business owners strongly opposed the project.
The new resolution lists the Zeier Road property as a “long-term site for redevelopment” after its use as a temporary homeless shelter has ended.
PHOTO: Brian Standing