Monday, June 18, 2012

Walker's Fourth Attack On Educators

Scott Walker first launched his offensive against teachers, as well as other public service workers, by falsely maligning them and turning his base out to hate the very people they entrust their children to day in and day out.

Then Walker led his major offensive maneuver by dropping his "bomb" on educators by taking their civil rights of collective bargaining away and trying to bust their unions.

His third offensive tactic came when he revealed his budget which did not just cut, but decimated funding by cutting a billion dollars from the education system.

All of this of course led to the beginning of the ruination of what once was one of the nation's best educational systems.

Now I have learned of a fourth attack on our states educators.

I've received the following email the other day from one of my faithful readers. I have no doubt of its veracity, printed in its entirety, with the exception of some judicial editing on my part to protect the emailer's identity and my addition of emphasis:
Hi Capper,

First let me thank you for all you have done for our beloved ( and my adopted) Wisconsin. We moved here with our daughter when she was 2 1/2 because living in DC Metro area back in 1989, she'd never even played in a park. My husband was born and raised here and I'd been here twice before we moved. It seemed like I was moving to my spiritual home and I felt this way until the last 5 or so years. There's way more to it than snaggle-tooth Scott but now I'm torn between fighting like a cornered badger or fleeing like a Jew in 1933 Germany. I guess I'm too stubborn to let a Joe McCarthy's clone and his ilk win, so here I am, children grown but not settled and now I am laid off.

The last characteristic is what I thought you might explore in your blog. You see I worked for a school district as a classroom aide for 8 years. I filed for unemployment last week, as it was the first week I wasn't working after I had been officially notified by the district in a letter that I would not have a 2012-13 contract extended to me due to declining enrollment. Today I received a letter from DWD outlining my benefit calculations with a single sentence at the end. "You have a pending issue on your claim and will be contacted separately regarding that issue."

Since the letter was dated a week ago and I hadn't received anything else I went ahead and phoned. I won't tell you how long I waited to get into the system just to have the system tell me all the hold capacity was full so they were ending the call. Not your number is noted, we'll call you back. Nope, just hung up on. So I tried several times like this and finally about call number five got to talk to Maureen. I asked Maureen about that "pending issue" and here is what she told me.

She told me that in spite of working for [some time in each of the four quarters for calendar many calendar years, including going into this year], that in spite of a letter from my employer that I no longer had a position at the end of the 2011-2012 year due to what amounts to economic reasons, that in spite of all that, my case and the case of any one working for a school district AUTOMATICALLY goes to adjudication.

What does that mean, AUTOMATICALLY? It means that because of the case load, I can not expect to have an adjudicator start the process for at least 3 weeks. I don't mean have a determination, I mean have them send out a questionaire to start the initial gathering of facts for the adjudication process. That means no sooner than 10 days after June 22 will I be receiving the munificent sum of [less than $200 per week]. In the meantime, according to the harried Maureen, my benefits, if I'm entitled to them, will be piling up and I'll receive a tidy sum, if I am determined to indeed be entitled to them. She explained that " of course you'll have to make 2 contacts a week and file reports by phone or internet on your job search." How pray tell will I be able to do that, Capper? How will I make phone calls if the phone is cut off, go to interviews living in rural Wisconsin without money to put in the tank, let alone make the car payment?

I can already guess what this little end run around being a district employee is all about. That my job is nominally a 10 month a year job, that there's a traditional seasonal break where I wouldn't normally be employed. That isn't true in my case or even the district's case but let's not go there right now. The season a school district employee goes out job hunting for positions is during the summer, before the school year begins, so from a required job hunting perspective that is a logic fail. I seem to remember part of why unemployment insurance was instituted was to provide a stipend to those who had a history of gainful employment to enable them to continue hunting for another position. I think most people would agree I have established such a history.

I want to know about the administrative rulings for the "special circumstances" of school district employees. Are they legislative or agency interpreted? How long has the AUTOMATIC adjudication rule been in place? Why are employees who just happen to work for school districts not afforded the same benefits and interpretation that other W-2 employees are? I used to be an employer and if I provided a letter to an employee stating they were laid off for economic reasons, that was the end of it, other than to verify that yes, that person was employed by me. Now it's already in the system and the only thing that needs verification is the last day of work. We used to call that letter the Golden Ticket because it meant one was automatically entitled to benefits, once a worker met the employment requirements of 14+ weeks.

I'm trying not be rabid or panicked but given all my particular circumstances, it's understandable. I don't have it the worst of many laid off workers but it's not real pretty either. This is the 5th layoff in our 3 person household in the last 7 years for a grand total of 4.75 man-years. There are no savings and our extended family's job histories and bank accounts are just as Swiss Cheesey as ours. I know I can't be the only one facing this, after all that 3 week adjudication back log is a series of other workers wending their way through this FitzWalkersKochistan dystopia. Any insight provided would be appreciated and if any of this is fodder for the blog, have at it, if you wish. I will provide updates as available, sigh.

Yours truly,

[Name redacted to protect the innocent]
I also received this email from the same person. I include it now because they raise some very valid complaints/questions:
Hi Capper,

I have enjoyed the blogging this week. I won't comment on specifics. I've been kicking around the School District Automatic Adjudication thing in my brain and cogitated a few tie-ins.

1) Last thing Scooter wants is the total number of District Employees hitting the dumper ALL in the month of June. Which they would because that is when school ends, right?

2) By funneling us all through the no doubt inadequate staffing of UIC and adjudicators, it will create more of a trickling effect spread out over at least 2 months, thereby effectively halving the impact of those numbers.

3) By doing the above 2 things the hit to the UIC fund for our pay outs will also favor the Gubminator's spin.

4) Let's face it, people like them think that people like me are going to be neutralized in my effectiveness to at least a small degree by the lack of money to my household. They know I will be preoccupied with subsistence issues as well as my good faith efforts to find positions (that don't exist, at any wage) in my field. Their mistake.

I've been inspired by other Twitterers, co-workers and community folks to realize we're just going to have to build up our alternative until it overwhelms these fascists. It was already boots on the ground from last January on and when little by little it finally dawns on even the teabaggers they've screwed us, we'll be at the ready to make Wisconsin better than ever. 
I have no doubt that Walker is pulling this delaying action, in part, to ease the hit on the unemployment numbers that will be forthcoming in June. But I also believe that it is also in part because the state is going down the tubes financially, and he is also trying to sweep that fact under the rug.

It's bad enough that he has sought to destroy our education system no matter, but to deny and delay unemployment insurance compensation to all the people that got laid off directly due to his budget is nothing more than sadistic and punitive.

What a sad state we have become when teachers, who are honored everywhere else in the world, are pilloried and demonized and now treated like third class citizens.  This has nothing to do with fiscal conservatism, and everything to do with union busting and scapegoating someone for Walker's own shortcomings.


  1. Not to side track the topic, but DHS has been putting a lot of things on the slow to act pace, too.

    I have a small claim I filed with a state agency, a very small one (for not getting paid OT), but since Walker moved it under his direct office control: nothing. I had had contact from the agency, but now it is like it is shut down.

    Or purposefully mismanaged?

    1. Once Walker started making his changes, there was speculation this would happen. What they are hoping for is that people will tire of the runaround, and just give up.

  2. Not to diminish this person's issue in any way, but it surprised me that you didn't include the April Assault. Scotty has given districts the go ahead to drop salaries to "base pay" which he defines as starting teacher salary with years of experience as the only increase allowed. Zero for further education.

    1. Yeah, I was reminded of that earlier today. I apologize for the inadvertent omission.

  3. This must have been a 12-month employee.

    Academic-year employees -- most "educators" aka teachers, not administrative, clerical, custodial, etc., workers in schools -- NEVER have been eligible for unemployment comp by state law.

    We are defined as "seasonal" employees, like migrants in the fields. . . .

    I.e., just a note that your header promised something different about "educators."

    1. You are poorly informed. Academic-year employees are in fact covered by unemployment compensation for a variety of unemployment scenarios. I personally helped somebody collect for a wrongful dismissal situation. I hope you didn't screw yourself or someone else out of their benefits by discouraging them with mis-information.

    2. Unemployment comp for the portion of the year not in the contract? I highly doubt it, netminnow.

      In contract law, it's contracts uber alles. That's Law School 101.

      Ye, there are exceptions -- as there are some year-round contracts for some educators. However, they are a small percentage of all "educators" as promised, I repeat, in the header here.
      "School employees" perhaps?

  4. I went through a similar situation with the DWD about a year ago and hope to never have to deal with them ever again. I had taught two courses as an adjunct at MATC, but had a full-time job at a non-profit. When the non-profit job ended, I filed for unemployment, but got caught up in the educator employment loop, too, since I had also taught as an instructor in the same time period.

    The adjudication is automatic and it takes forever to be resolved. It took 8 weeks after filing to get my first check and that was after calling Senator Risser's office- my state senator- and getting some help from the legislative liaison. (I strongly recommend this action. There is no email system with DWD- only the automated call-in number which means that you may have trouble even getting in the queue to be put on hold and finally reaching a human being).

    The issue is the 9 month contract that K-12 educators have. The DWD has to make sure that this is a real termination of employment and not a summer vacation. But, the adjudicators are overworked and there are not enough of them and so, action is very delayed.

    Once you are assigned to an adjudicator, you will have a different phone number to call- his or hers- and then things get easier when you get the questionnaire or the telephone interview.

    The letter of termination should be enough to begin unemployment benefits and that person will get back benefits, too, but yes, it's going to take much longer than it needs to take. The adjudicator also has to contact the former employer and verify everything and that takes much longer than it should.

    It's a horribly run agency and setting up unemployment for educators is an additional nightmare, but I don't think this provision began with Walker. I think the policy has been in place for a long time at the DWD.

  5. Believe me I'm sympathetic to your situation and I'm as liberal as they come, but I'd like to set the record straight. I've worked for UI for over 10 years. This procedure has been in place for the entire duration of my employment. If any person files a UI claim against an educational employer during a defined break period (in this case summer break) there is always going to be an investigation in order to determine whether the individual has reasonable assurance of returning to work with an educational employer following the break. If there is no reasonable assurance then the individual can collect UI based on the wages paid from the educational employer. If they have reasonable assurance to return to work for an educational employer then the individual cannot receive benefits based on the wages earned with the educational employer. This is a simplified version of the investigation, but these are the basics of it. Believe it or not these are some of the most complicated issues to adjudicate. Due to low staffing levels adjudicators are expected to handle a substantial number of cases per week. Even though it seems as though these issues should not take long to investigate, when you take into account the volume of cases adjudicators must investigate each week you begin to understand why this process can take longer than expected. I know it can be frustrating, but this is not the result of any action being taken by the current administration. Please don't take it out on the State Workers that administer this program. It's not their fault that this is the law and that they don't have sufficient staffing to investigate the issues as soon as we'd all like.

    1. That was not my experience with unemployment. And what is there to investigate if they have a lay off letter due to economic reasons.

    2. Exactly, and despite what was said above. A lot of teachers get layoff letters at the end of the year but get jobs for the next fall. As they had nine-month contracts for the school year, with no promise of summer work, they do not get to get unemployment comp for the summer.

      It's all about the contract. If it's a nine-month contract, I repeat: State law states that this is a seasonal employee ineligible for comp in summer.

    3. I don't think anyone is blaming DWD workers. We all recognize that it's Walker and his crony administrators that set the policies that are so draconian.

  6. You are right Capper, that scapegoating teachers is insane and bad for the state.

  7. I absolutely do not doubt that the Walker Admin would delay some UI and other payments because the of the end of the fiscal year on June 30. Pushing these required payments into July means that the 2011-2012 budget (Walker's first year) would look better than it really is, and lessen the chance of the real fiscal deficit from showing up until after the Legislative elections in 2012.

    Disgustingly cynical, but par for the course with this crew.

  8. This made me feel lousy. Say, why don't you run for office, capper?
    - SuzyMetta4

    1. Well, if I ran for office, who would be your watchdog?