Reporters at Milwaukee television station Fox 6 found an electronic message trail connecting Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz with a frantic attempt to get Democrat Secretary of State Doug LaFollette to stall the necessary paperwork on publishing the governor's budget repair bill, which he introduced on Friday, Feb. 11.
The Fugitive 14 Senate Democrats skedaddled for Illinois on the following Thursday, Feb. 17, to prevent a vote after the Joint Finance Committee had cleared the bill the previous evening. The budget repair bill eliminates collective bargaining by government employees except for wages, and then only at the cost of living index.
The Senate had scheduled a vote for that Thursday morning.
Thursday evening, the Madison Common Council rushed through the union contracts at a hastily convened meeting.
The incriminating e-mails were sent by the mayor's chief of staff that Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.
Fox TV 6 reported Wednesday evening:
The mayor of the City of madison tried to pull a fast one. E-mails obtained by Fox 6 show Mayor Dave Cieslewicz was racing against the clock to pass union contracts first. E-mails showed mayor enlisted the help of state senator Mark Miller. Both tried to convince the secretary of state to hold up the [budget repair] bill by taking the maximum 10 days allowed by law before publishing in it. They were trying to buy time so they could ratify new contracts to protect workers from benefit cuts."
Fox TV 6 quotes Chris Kliesmet, of the influential Citizens for Responsible Government.
"This suggests collusion between some politicians and public sector employee unions. ... collective bargaining requires two sides."
TV 6 suggests -- but could provide no definitive link -- that the 14 Democrats in the State Senate, led by Sen. Miller, left state in order to give more unions time to work out sweetheart deals.
Kliesmet's group led efforts to recall several Milwaukee county supervisors in the wake of the Democrats' pension scandal that paved the way for reformer Scott Walker to win election as county executive in that predominantly Democratic county.
Kliesmet told Blaska's Blog:
It is becoming clear that at least a portion the "end game" for the "cowardly 14" is to buy time to extend public employee contracts in order to circumvent Walker's proposed changes in collective bargaining laws. From MATC to Shorewood to Janesville, and now Madison, this is proving to be a concerted effort by a cabal of liberal lawmakers across Wisconsin to steal from the general public in order to feed their union masters. The new union mantra seems to be "Spread the wealth, but refuse the pain."
Kliesmet will appear with Vicky McKenna this afternoon during the 3 to 4 p.m. segment on her Up Front program on WIBA 1310 AM.
Saved by the mayor in time for an election
As we know, the Mayor marched with the city's 12 labor unions and most of the common council from city hall, past the demonstrators on Capitol Square and to the Overture Center for a hastily called meeting on February 17 to rush through union-friendly contracts. Those contracts froze existing benefits for two years and provided for pay raises -- pay RAISES -- of 3 percent this year and another 2 percent next year.
That and similar actions by municipalities from La Crosse to Kenosha proved Governor Walker's point -- that public employee unions were not sincere about being willing to compromise. They were unwilling to make the modest contributions toward health insurance and pensions in return for retaining collective bargaining privileges.
Now the City of Madison faces revenue cuts of several million dollars and will be prohibited from increasing its property tax levy beyond the value of new construction, if Governor Walker's biennial budget bill is enacted.
On Monday, Feb. 14, the first day of the Capitol protests, the mayor's chief of staff, Janet Piraino, e-mails legislative staffers for Rep. Mark Pocan and Senator Miller and the mayor's wife, Diane Cieslewicz, staffer for Sen. Fred Risser:
Hey, have you guys given any thought to asking Doug LaFollette to take the maximum 10 days before publishing the bill?
Piraino the next day asks,
Are you aware of other municipalities who are racing to alter their CBAs [collective bargaining agreements] before the bill goes into effect? If we can convince the Secretary of State that there are others out there like Madison, we may be able to get a little extra time before the bill is published and officially becomes law. Please let us know or call Doug directly.
Sitting on both sides of the bargaining table
The rap against public sector labor unions is that they sit on both sides of the collective bargaining table. On one side is a Mayor who is facing a tough re-election campaign. Across from him on the bargaining table are the city's AFSCME affiliated unions, powerful political players themselves. Right behind them, figuratively, are the even more powerful teachers union, who run the city's public schools. Election day is a scant six weeks hence.
Up the street, state government is considering changes in collective bargaining law to help local governments cope with drastic reductions in state shared revenue. State government is just plain broke and the changes will help your city hold the line on taxes.
What do you do on behalf of the taxpayers of your city -- many of whom have been laid off in this Great Recession, many of whom pay the entirety of their retirement pensions and their health insurance. If you are Mayor Cieslewicz, you can't wait to shower goodies on your politically connected public employee unions.
You need their political action campaign donations, their election eve phone banks, their lit droppers, and their street muscle.
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