WPEC got its start over 20 years ago when a small group of professional state employees met in an upstairs office on Atwood Avenue in Madison to talk about forming a union. Some were already committed to the idea but others were skeptical. It kept coming down to the question “what would we get with a union that we don't already get under the state’s civil service system?”
When this group first met, issues included lower raises when compared to unionized blue collar, clerical, technical and other professional employees; compensation lower than counterparts in the private sector and other government agencies; that raises were distributed inequitably because much of the compensation came as discretionary awards, so that individuals working hard and doing the same work ended up at different wage levels. The result was not only pay inequity but resentment and competition among coworkers.
Money was a big issue, but other issues included guaranteed education and training benefits, better transfer opportunities and an independent mechanism for resolving disputes between supervisors and employees. Organizing fever spread throughout the unit. We voted in the union, the Wisconsin Professional Employees Council, in March 1993.
Union work is not just about money. It’s also about having a say about the work we do. About having guaranteed education benefits. About being able to negotiate over work rules and to overturn unjust disciplinary actions. About fairness, equity and job security.
Since Act 10, a lot of things have changed. State employees were the first group of public employees to feel the impact of Act 10. We were officially off contract in July of 2011. The “small adjustments” made in Act 10 to increase pension and health insurance premiums actually amounted to a minimum of a 6.5% pay decrease. For those who used the State’s health insurance program, the decrease could be 10% or more. Act 10 followed two years of furloughs under Governor Doyle. The furloughs amounted to a 3% decrease per year. However, through a “me too” clause in our furlough agreement, we were able to recoup 24 hours of furlough time in the form of sabbatical leave contributions for our members in June of 2011.
Since then, we have concentrated our efforts on re-organizing our bargaining unit, defending and assisting our members who run into difficulties with their agency/campus, and keeping our members informed of their existing rights under civil service. To join us, go to the home page of www.wpec.org and click on “Join Us”.