Tuesday, May 19, 2009

U R Furloughed

It’s a hallmark of political leadership. Stake out a bold initiative, make a big speech about it, and then when somebody actually asks you about the details….change the subject.

Diamond Jim’s latest dandy is his announcement that state employees will be required to take a mess of days off with no pay over the next two years. Sixteen is the working number. Can’t just tell them he’s whacking 8 days pay off their checks this year and next year; that would break way too many laws. Can’t just “average it out” and dock their checks a small amount every month. Breaks too many laws and union contract provisions. Or does it? Nobody seems to know for sure.

It didn’t take long for what’s left of the local news corps to start asking questions about who’s subject to furlough and who’s not, how’s it going to work, and the other typical basic questions you’d expect even a cub reporter to ask. Hospital workers? Jail guards? Barry Alvarez? Bo Ryan? Bret Bielema? Legitimate questions, since all are among the 69 thousand state employees.
Since Diamond Jim had no answers, he pitched the ball into the court of the Office of State Employment Relations. They’re supposedly getting back to the reporters in…oh, a couple weeks or so.

By the way, when the question of the UW coaches furloughs came up, the guv opined they SHOULD be subject. The UW system represents nearly half the total state employee work force. Public school teachers aren’t, in case you’re wondering, because they actually work for the local school board. But the DPI has 700 employees, including the teachers at the state’s schools for the deaf and blind. Which days during their nine months of teaching should they be “furloughed”? And when they’re on furlough, do we hire (and PAY) substitute teachers?

Questions, questions. Details, details.

Anybody care to guess whether the analysts and investigators at the State Crime Lab have to be furloughed? The people who do all that DNA stuff that links criminals with crimes ARE subject to the unpaid days, according to their boss, Attorney General J B VanHollen.

And the politicians? The gang of 132 up there at the head of State Street? The ones who took that “automatic” pay raise a short while ago? Well, they’re generously going to give up 16 days’ pay.
It’s so hard to figure these things out. But it’s so easy just to say “we’re going to furlough state employees to help fill the budget hole”. But don’t worry, Employment Relations will have the answers for us. Any day now.

Don’t hold your breath.


  1. Hmmmm.. Good questions. Why do contracts apply when you make over $500,000 but don't apply under $45,000? One day the labor force is going to wake up and realize that the elites don’t' want a blue collar job, and can't do the blue collar job. Do you think J.B. Van Hollen can load and drive a cross state/country tractor/ trailer, l don't. Walk out and leave a nice virus on the State computer system, one that will cancel the legislator's paycheck. Let the directors do something other than go to meetings. Screw the elite and the government elite, they need us more than we need them.

  2. I'd prefer that someone in Mr. VanHollen's position was a graduate of law school, not the Diesel Truck Driving School in Sun Prairie.