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Wisconisn Governor Scott Walker gestures as he addresses the second session of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, August 28, 2012 REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES  - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)
My fourth cousin twice removed needs a new job, and I promised my mom I would help him out...
This past week we have seen the highest court in the land rule against home healthcare workers and against women. A week where the rights of the common people were overridden by the rights of corporations. Not exactly a winning week for progressive causes.

This is not the first time in our nation's history when business interests overruled the interests of those of us who are not incorporated. At the turn of the 20th century, this very same fight was going on. The names have changed, but the fight has not, as you can see below the fold.

Here in Wisconsin, in fourth grade, every child across the state learns about Wisconsin history. One of the lessons taught is about Fighting Bob La Follette. In 1900 Robert M. La Follette was elected governor of Wisconsin as a Progressive Republican who believed that the proper business of government was not business, but service to the common people.

La Follette, during his time as governor, took on big business, which at the time was the railroads, and passed many reforms to clean up government and make it work for the people. Of these reforms the most important one that was signed into law was the reform of civil service jobs (PDF). Instead of the patronage system used in the past, civil service exams became the norm, thus weeding out corruption in state government.

One of the worries when Gov. Scott Walker signed Act 10 into law is what would happen to the civil service system that has worked so well for Wisconsin for over 100 years. It is possible that we now have the answer.

Gov. Scott Walker’s administration is looking at ways to speed hiring for state civil service jobs [...] Most state positions are civil service jobs. Unlike political appointees, those workers are supposed to be chosen strictly on merit rather than party ties and they can’t be fired without cause. They go through an extensive hiring process that can include multiple exams and interviews.
If you want a job with the state of Wisconsin, you will have to take an exam, maybe two, and you will have several intensive interviews. It will in all likelihood take several months to go through the process.

With the passage of Act 10, Wisconsin has seen unprecedented public service retirements, which is giving the Walker administration the excuse to roll back the civil service system that has worked well for over a century. Department of Administration spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis stated:

[T]he situation could lead to a vacuum in state government within a couple of years as more state workers retire, citing a 2007 Office of State Employment Relations report that found that by the end of 2015, nearly 40 percent of state civil service employees will be eligible for retirement.

Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch has started querying other state agencies to better understand why the process takes so long and to field suggestions on how to speed it up. He hopes to present ideas to the Office of State Employment Relations as possible changes to its hiring handbook.

These changes to the hiring handbook up until February of 2011 would have been made in a collaborative manner with the state employee unions. Now, without the unions being involved, we could see Walker and his minions change civil service positions to appointed positions. We could see the hiring process changed so drastically that it could be unrecognizable.

Department of Administration emails show that.

Huebsch asked Tennessee's state human resources commissioner in April for the highlights of extensive revisions legislators made to that state's civil service hiring and retention practices in a 2012 law.

The changes included shortening the length of time jobs are posted from two weeks to one week; extending workers' probationary period from at least six months to at least a year; shortening advance notice of layoffs or furloughs from 90 days to 30.

Marty Beil, executive director of the Wisconsin State Employees Union said:
[T]he administration really wants to overhaul the civil service application process. [I am] afraid the administration wants to make civil servants at-will employees, which means they can be fired without cause, and make it easier to hire political cronies.
Keep in mind this is the same Department of Administration that said it would cost over 7 million dollars to clean the Wisconsin State Capitol after the Wisconsin Uprising. It ended up costing around $350,000. If you ask me if I trust the Department of Administration under current leadership to rewrite civil service hiring rules, I would emphatically say no.

Now contrast this with how the City of Madison is handling life post-Act 10:

Mayor Paul Soglin proposed and the City Council on Tuesday approved ordinances intended to create a special Committee on Employee Relations and establish a broad grievance and arbitration process.
This nine-member committee will include three city managers, three citizen members nominated by employees, two members of the city’s Board of Estimates and the human resources director, who will only vote to break ties. The committee cannot engage in collective bargaining due to restrictions on collective bargaining in Act 10.

Madison is looking at working collaboratively with employees, while the state of Wisconsin is not. The city of Madison will continue to attract the best and brightest employees as they treat labor with respect. Walker and his cronies are trying to run the state like a business when it comes to employee relations, forgetting that the proper business of government is not business, but service to the common people.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 04:25 PM PDT.

Also republished by Badger State Progressive, Democracy Addicts, and Daily Kos.

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