Letter to the Editor: Work together; take back UW-System

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March 15, 2016

When Scott Walker won the recall election in 2012, I said that if he were to be reelected in 2014 he would then attack the professors and tenure. One professor laughed, saying that he wouldn’t dare.

When the Classified Staff Advisory Council (now the University Staff Council) began, I told the chair that all the governance groups should form a unified front.  My advice fell on deaf ears.

When the AFSCME Union leaders in the UW-System met after we were told that each campus was mandated to create (or maintain) a governance group for our represented employees, I expressed my concern that the campuses would use the new governance group to replace the local unions. My opinion was quickly dismissed by more experienced union leaders.

This letter isn’t about any clairvoyant ability I may possess, or an “I told you so” to those with whom I have had interactions. The first part of this letter is to show that every group within the UW-System fell prey to hubris, sectarian thought and repudiation.

The result has been a loss of collective bargaining and the old tenure system, a flawed merit-based raise system replaced by nothing, very few new policies, confused and frustrated employees (and management) and an understaffed Human Resources Department to undertake all of the changes.

But don’t fret, here comes the second part of the letter. In order to move forward we need to work together and understand that each of our voices is important to the whole. Our campus used to have a Labor Management Council in which certain campus matters were discussed. When Act 10 was implemented, the LMC went away. During my time as AFSCME Local Vice President, we proposed a new group to the Administration: The Board of Communication. The proposal was denied.

It must be noted that all of this happened before Beverly Kopper became our chancellor. But I am offering up the idea that we create an all-encompassing group right now. We don’t have time for hubris, sectarian thought or repudiation. Let’s create a group – something like the UW-W L.E.A.D.ers (Listen. Express. Act. Disperse.).

The group should meet once a week until we have a stable work environment. Each meeting should have representatives from everywhere on campus (perhaps an employee from each position from each building). The group would listen to individuals, express opinions, act by writing a policy and then disperse it across campus. We need not try to tackle the largest issues first. In fact, starting small and having some progress – any progress – would go a long way to employee morale.

Lastly, I want to address the power we already have to create change: the power to vote. I understand that we employees must walk a fine line concerning politics, but there is a clear connection between political decisions and the UW-System. Let’s vote to get our UW-System back before it fades into history.     

Jeff Ehren

Custodian, UW-W