As Scott Walker has abdicated his role as governor in order to become a professional campaigner, he has traveled around the country bragging about his Act 10, the right to work legislation that he launched almost immediately in 2011. Walker likes to tell folks that he was big and bold as he took on those eeeeeeeeevvvvvvvvviiiiiilllll unions and saved taxpayers over $3 billion.
Well, he didn't really take on the unions. He boldly ran away and refused to even talk to the unions, like a cowardly bully that finds himself outnumbered and outmaneuvered.
One would be hard pressed to find anything near the tax savings that Walker has claimed. Over the four years Walker has been in office, he's saved taxpayers only a few bucks. This false claim is made worse when one considers that many Wisconsinites saw a hefty drop in their property values, some as high as What Walker did do was take $3 billion out of the economy and gave it to his wealth campaign donors.
But there is another unintended consequence from Walker's Act 10 that hasn't been widely reported. Not only has Act 10 severely cut the take home pay of public sector workers, but it has opened the door to nepotism, cronyism, waste, fraud and corruption.
Last year, Lisa Kaiser of the Shepherd Express reported about the income maintenance program in Milwaukee County, which became a personal employment office for its administration:
State employees are speaking out about promotions and bonuses given to relatives of managers within the State Department of Health Services (DHS) Milwaukee Enrollment Services (MilES), headquartered at the Coggs Human Services Center on Vliet Street.
A handful of managers’ relatives with less than two years of experience were promoted over colleagues with up to 14 years of experience.
Those same favored employees were among those who received a $2,500 windfall last week, when DHS awarded roughly 900 employees $2.5 million in bonuses at managers’ discretion.
Vanessa Robertson, chief operations officer of DHS at the Coggs Center, refused to answer the Shepherd’s questions about the allegations last week.
Robertson’s son, Gavin, was among those who received the $2,500 bonus. He was hired in May 2012 and was promoted in April 2013 over employees with more seniority, earning $4.65 more per hour as a result.
David Eisner, a contract administrator for District Council 48, is representing four employees who have filed six appeals with the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC) over the questionable promotions.
Eisner charged that it takes at least two years for an employee to become proficient and a one-year employee such as the COO’s son should not have been promoted in April.
“This is flat-out nepotism,” Eisner said.
While the passed-over employees can appeal the unfair promotions to the WERC, they have no way to appeal the bonuses.
“And if you’re not the boss’s buddy, you’re not going to get a bonus,” Eisner said.
I pointed out other problems with the program:
I would also add that another predictable result of Act 10 and the ensuing corruption is that this program is seeing a higher rate of turnover than ever before. When this program used to be run by Milwaukee County, even under Walker, the turnover rate wasn't that high. Now, since Act 10, they seem to be in a constant state of hiring and training new employees.
With the cost of going through the screening process and the training of so many people, I find it highly unlikely that the state is actually seeing any savings from Act 10.
I would also mention that the Walker appointee to run this program, Ed Kamin, has other problems besides, and possibly partially because of, the rampant nepotism and cronyism - such as violating a number of federal laws and wrongfully denying applicants (most commonly non-English speaking) their due benefits.
Kaiser has done a follow up report on the issue and found that matters have only gotten worse. Not only is the nepotism, cronyism and corruption as rampant as ever, but the workers that blew the whistle on these issues have been bullied and intimidated by management.
And it is not confined to this one program. The abuse of power is happening across the state:
The MilES office allegations didn’t surprise Marty Beil, executive director of AFSCME District Council 24. He said there’s been a huge change in workplace culture at state worksites since Act 10’s implementation.
“Every state work site is a cesspool,” Beil told the Shepherd. “I’m not being facetious here. Workers are concerned with money and benefits but what has been happening at the worksites, the culture that has been established, has been more disruptive than these workers not receiving adequate pay increases.”
Beil said bullying and intimidation are rampant throughout state agencies. He said supervisors try to bully and harass outspoken workers so that they’ll quit or ultimately be fired. Worksites are short staffed, leading to high amounts of overtime and threats to privatize operations, he said.
“It’s like somebody switched a switch in 2011 and these supervisors and administrators all became ogres,” Beil said.
Also common is the lowering of qualifications for professional jobs, Beil said. For example, the Milwaukee Bureau of Child Welfare, run by the state since 2002, has faced complaints about its handling of suspected cases of child abuse and high staff turnover. In response, it’s changed its hiring requirements for those who take initial assessments of child abuse. Previously, access and initial assessment specialists were required to be social workers. Now, those with a high school diploma can be considered for the job.
“What message does that send to the rest of the workers who have master’s degrees there?” Beil said. “And who’s going to get blamed when a person who has a high school diploma makes a wrong decision about suspected child abuse?”
Not reported in the article is the fact that this abuse and exploitation of the system is happening at all level of government.
In the city of Oak Creek, the school board nearly fired a teacher based on hearsay. Milwaukee County Execute Chris Abele tried to steal the pensions of hundreds of retirees so that he could give the money to his fellow millionaires. The list goes on and on.
When Walker bragged about "dropping a bomb" on the state with Act 10, he wasn't just talking euphemistically.