Friday, December 27, 2013

The County Emperor Versus Solidarity

Milwaukee County Emperor Chris Abele has a deep disdain for workers of all sorts, but it is county workers that he really likes to take his arrogance out on.

Abele and his staff have spent months poring over spreadsheets, comparing pay scales and benefits between the various job titles and between the various unions.  Abele claimed that they were looking to make things more equitable between job titles and unions.  What Abele didn't tell people that the equity he was looking for involved the lowest common denominator.

Abele's ultimate goal was to break AFSCME - which has been a constant barrier to Abele's plans of running rough shod over the workers and privatizing everything so that he and his fellow plutocrats can make the county into their own cash cow - and then in turn pick off the smaller unions at his leisure.

He used this as an excuse to freeze pay raises for all county raises (except for his own staff of course!).  He also was looking to all but destroy the grievance process, making it a Machiavellian system that was stacked against the workers.

Furthermore, he wanted to make safety and written reprimands as the only grievable issues.  In other words, if the worker got an oral reprimand, they were out of luck.  If one worker was given twice as much as work as the worker who was Abele's crony, the first worker was out of luck.  If management created a hostile work environment, the workers were out of luck.

Under Abele's proposed system, the workers' only choices was to live with the unfair practices, quit their jobs or sue the county.

There was one thing in Abele's way of doing this - the Status Quo Ordinance.

A couple of years ago, the leadership of AFSCME District Council 48 saw what was coming with Act 10 and how it would cut the union off at the knees and throw the county into chaos.  The unions then worked with the Milwaukee County Board and Abele to codify as much of the contract the union had with the county as possible under Act 10.  This would prevent some of the chaos that is happening in other governments and protect the workers as much as possible.

But then Abele changed his mind after realizing that the Status Quo Ordinance would keep him from his corporate takeover of the county assets and hence his plan which he calls "Cross Walk."  It should really be named "Cross Hairs."

Earlier this month, Abele tried to launch his attack by presenting it the County Board's Finance, Personnel and Audit Committee.  The unions had seen this coming and had already been working together and sharing their concerns with Board members.  Thus they drafted a resolution that not only maintained the Status Quo Ordinance, but strengthened it by including the small unions.  Ironically, this also met Abele's stated goal of equity.

Undaunted and unthinking, Abele still had his people present his plan, which got shot down in favor of the immeasurably more preferable resolution.  It didn't help Abele's cause much when Kerry Mitchell, Abele's handpicked Director of Human Resources, insulted the committee members:
Things got testy during the board's finance committee meeting Thursday over a proposed set of work rules that Human Resources Director Kerry Mitchell said she'd been trying in vain to get supervisors to discuss.

"I don't think any of you have any comprehension" how difficult and complex the work rule project was, Mitchell said. She said she could tell supervisors also didn't understand a complicated salary study.

Supervisors said they were insulted by her remarks.

"Maybe I'm just too much of a bumpkin to get it," Cullen said.
The committee voted 9-0 to approve the resolution strengthening the ordinance.

Abele was so upset about again being told no that he had yet another one of his temper tantrums, accusing committee members of ignoring legal advice and breaking the law and said that they should be recalled:
Abele even suggested the board's failure to listen to the advice of county lawyers on those issues could provoke a recall effort against supervisors.

"When your legal adviser tells you this isn't legal and you do that anyway, the word that usually comes to mind is recall," Abele said.
In an exclusive report, I demonstrated that Abele was a bold-faced liar with an email showing that not only did Corp Counsel help write the ordinance and found it legal, but Abele already knew about it:

Click on image to embiggen it
On December 19, the County Board voted on it as a whole.  It passed with a remarkable 18-0 vote.  Even the traditionally anti-union, pro-Abele supervisors voted for this.

The moral of the story is that when people pull together, when we work in true solidarity, we can overcome the big money special interests and thwart their attacks on the people.  The keys are to educate and to organize.

As I keep pointing out time and time again, "The only effective answer to organized greed is organized labor." (Quote from Thomas Donahue)

Perhaps it's time we beat this into the Democrats' collective head so that we can take on the Kochs and the Bradley Foundation and their sockpuppet, Scott Walker.


  1. I would love to see a response to this from the Boy Emperor, or from a spokesperson or any kind of designated sock puppet.

    There's got to be a point where it becomes obvious that "reducing budget costs and saving taxpayer money" is just another name for "strangling government in the bathtub." That benefits no one except the feudal overlords, whose influence would then grow to fill the resulting power vacuum.

  2. I wish someone would primary this bait-and-switch elitist.

  3. Actually Abele sounds like the only adult in the room. Hard to see what value Milwaukee government delivers or needs to deliver in an area completely covered by cities, towns and villages. Why should your cash-strapped taxpayers foot the bill for a bloated entity and not wish to trade it in for a more flexible, lean county structure as found in every other county in Wisconsin?

    1. Wow, nice little Gish Gallop you got going on there.

      So, you're saying that nineteen bureaucracies will be more efficient and cost effective than one. Right. If you even bothered to think that through before spouting Abele's rhetoric, you would realize how foolish that is.

      Apparently you have forgotten how the municipalities cried when Abele cut the EMS funding, saying it would raise their taxes or eliminate EMS services for their town. You also seem to have forgotten all the problems they have every time that the library agreement comes up for renewal.

      What your proposing would raise taxes and cut services to the point that it would make Detroit look like Utopia.

      Secondly, tell me what other counties in the state has a Class A city, an international airport, a world class zoo, and all the other amenities that Milwaukee does. What's that? There are none? Right! So you're comparison is as feeble as your other argument.

    2. First let me offer a little constructive criticism about how narrow and boring your blog has become. It's "Abele is evil" nearly all of the time. There are pretty serious actions being taken by Wisconsin's leaders to damage Wisconsin families and businesses - you're doing us a real disservice by focusing on this never ending quest for your great white whale. Shockingly, you actually hit upon a very real problem - first class city status. Junk that system and no more separate rules, no more attacking and diverting resources from the one city that arguably needs the most. I made no proposals in my prior comment so now let me suggest that at the very least a part-time county board with fewer supervisors and less administrative bloat would be an appropriate starter measure. Far from costing more, it will cost strapped taxpayers in the county less and bring in members who hold jobs, businesses and professions and possess fresh ideas, perhaps a passion to innovate and reform and who can represent the taxpayers free of the shackles of making their money off those same taxpayers. Start with a stronger crop of county representatives and all manner of improvements are possible. Instead of services cut or defunded to the point they may as well be cut, a strong group of innovative thinkers truly representing the taxpayers may re-cast the responsibility to the state, a city/village, or a private entity or they may choose to reform its objectives and delivery. The net effect of reform and lessening the layers of government feeding off the taxpayers doesn't have to be lower service nor higher costs and there is simply no chance for Milwaukee County to ever find out as long as the status quo is maintained. Your county is sinking. Totally. It's not Abele's fault - I'm no fan, he's under educated with limited professional experience (just like Walker) - but you've let personal animosity blind you to the hopelessness of Milwaukee County's situation. There is no turning back the dial to the way things were in its manufacturing hey day. Your landscape is strewn with generations wallowing in the anguish of poverty, crime, illness and hunger. The only direction must be forward towards freed up resources, reinvestment, re-building, and establishing a new identity, not doubling down on the status quo as you advocate in post after post. I guess it's unsurprising that you and some of your union brethren would rather maintain a laser like focus on your own job descriptions, pay, breaks and benefits. But while you go along as before you are simply institutionalizing brokenness and misery. Milwaukee County is in desperate need of transformation and perhaps Capper, you are simply too invested in your own grudges and pay scale to care.

    3. Yes, the county is sinking because of the status quo. But you fail to recognize that the status quo for the past 12 years has been austerity. It is obviously not working, but yet you say let us open the flood gates to more austerity. This makes sense how?

      You say cut the board's salary, authority and ability to do it's job. How will that save money. As a percentage of the county budget, it is a pittance. And the do not have staff making $150K, like there is in Abele's office. If you were serious about helping the cash strapped taxpayer, one would have thought that is where you would have started.

      You say abdicate the county's responsibilities to the state or to the municipalities or to a private entity. If you are saying this will save money, you are either grossly misinformed or simply not a serious person.

      The state took over child welfare in MKE County in 1998. Since their take over,the system is costing $40-$50 million more each and every year, yet is no better - and in many ways worse - than when the county ran it. Furthermore, there has been countless studies and reports showing that privatization is more expensive than keeping things in the public sector. And yes, having 19 agencies doing what was done by one is more expensive, any way you add it up.

      As for your complaint that I am too focused on workers' rights, let me point out that due to Abele's policies, there has been a number of lawsuits filed against the county. Not only is this costing the taxpayers the cost of the legal representation but it the county keeps losing because what Abele keeps doing is illegal and unconstitutional. How is that saving you money. But the fact that you are expressing your animosity to unions and to workers tells me that you really don't comprehend the problem, much less the solution.

      You complain about state leaders who are causing damage to Wisconsin families and businesses, but then support Abele for taking the same actions and call for more of it? How does one even try to justify that sort of hypocrisy?

      Finally, you complain of my "fixation" on Abele. Funny, people said that same thing when I wrote all about Walker most of the time and started to blow off my warnings. How is that working out for you now?

    4. Defensive as always. The contrast couldn't be greater between you and the Blogging Blue guy. I'll respond last to first. I personally have done rather well under Walker. And therein lies the problem, right? Because a lot of people who consistently vote have done rather well under Walker. In my case, I am one of those Democrats who sees the value in enlarging the whole pie and not just a piece or two - I differ from you in that it seems - so I don't support him. Abele is removing the safety ladder from Milwaukee County families, destroying the purchasing power of a majority of Milwaukee County families which in turn hurts businesses, diminishing women's access to healthcare and destroying their reproductive rights in Milwaukee County? Is he allowing an open pit mine in Milwaukee County in one of it's most pristine natural areas - maybe along the lakeshore? Has he removed a billion from the schools? Has Abele just proposed scrapping the state income tax for a huge sales tax increase? Some perspective Capper. Whether or not, Abele is the solution for Milwaukee County, there is worse happening to the entire state. Tell me Capper, are unions innovative? Do they see themselves as part of the solution and do they offer growth strategies and partner with management to develop new business and retain clients? Do they believe in creating a better whole for everyone versus enlarging a piece or two for themselves? The answer is of course that some do and will survive and others don't so won't. Where do you belong I wonder? Privatization actually can work well as long as government does its job and establishes accountability and oversight. No accountability, the costs go up and problems occur - another reason why I don't support Walker as he drops the ball consistently in this area. The decision to hand over responsibilities to the state, private entities, municipal governments or keep the service and reform it should be based on a number of factors and bad or good examples of past experience are only one of those factors but overall the goal in Milwaukee County should be to shrink the layers of government the residents must fund. Personally I think the entire region should convert to a single regional government but it seems easier to ask for world peace. A part-time and extremely slimmed down Milwaukee County Board saves money two ways - first the savings from going to part-time salaries and no benefits for board members and fewer full-time employees for the administration. Perhaps the Board doesn't have $150kers working for it but the MJS reports today that there is a $100ker there. More importantly a slimmed down board drawn from business people, workers and professionals will possess the skills, desire, and objectivity to problem solve and make the difficult decisions on the size and goals of Milwaukee County government. Lastly, county government cannot run spending like the state or federal governments given how it generates revenues. Austerity is an unfortunate consequence to the lack of foresight among leadership much further back than 15 years ago. The exodus of manufacturing and flight of white families to the burbs should have brought about change 20-30 years ago. Times are very bad for Milwaukee County families and businesses and increasing property tax or sales tax would be the worst possible step. Look Abele is not great but he's not status quo. He's digging into the numbers, trying out alternatives, proposing solutions. Anyone else doing that in the County? Or are you all just grabbing as much of your own as you can, keeping yourselves in place, and convincing yourselves you're indispensable to the taxpayers? Seems like you and your cronies are the real bad guys in this daily Milwaukee County drama you promulgate on Cognitive Dissonance.

    5. Walker has his mine. Abele has his destruction of the last naturally growing area in the county in Tosa. Abele also has the selling and building of private buildings on public lands and a part of the former lake bed on top of that! But with enough money, apparently one can buy a revision of history.

      Abele has taken tens of millions out of circulation in Milwaukee County by doubling the amount paid by workers. And I literally meaning doubling.

      And going beyond Walker, Abele's abandonment of our most vulnerable citizens has already to at least one death, a maiming, and numerous arrests. He has not only jeopardized the safety of these vulnerable citizens, but has endangered the public safety throughout the state as he forces them out into the street whether they have proper safety services or not.

      You say raising property and sales taxes are bad, but are apparently fine with Abele shifting higher taxes on the municipalities as they try to cover Abele's shortcomings. You apparently have no issue with Abele wanting to raise the sales tax for a new arena, even though that will have an overall negative impact on the area. Funny thing is I bet you also opposed the sales tax for transit which would have bolstered the economy and also given a reduction in property tax.

      And as I have pointed out in the post, which you refuse to acknowledge, Abele has been caught lying time and again and using bad math. Remember the more than $3 million in errors in his last budget that had to be fixed.

      If you really think that Abele or the rest of the plutocracy really cares about you or me, you are grossly mistaken. The question is whether your are sincerely being foolish or simply being duplicitous.

    6. All on Abele as far as you're concerned, eh? Shockingly but not really the Board is either absent or portrayed as the victim in your posts. That should be enough to make the average county taxpayer wonder - why are the Board so weak? Why are they so ineffectual? Why in the world couldn't they even create a park closed to development out of Milwaukee County's last green space? It's too bad Abele makes mistakes. But then mistakes are indicative of someone actually, you know, trying. Now about the Milwaukee County Board again. What exactly have the been doing to effect change? Oh and Capper, maybe these monolithic plutocrats you write about should just run the show in Milwaukee County if you're the face of the alternative. You seem to want to force the Milwaukee voters into a choice between Plato and Leibniz. Well, that's a heck of a rotten choice. Hopefully there are enough informed taxpayers left in Milwaukee County to demand stronger leaders and smarter policies from their county government while resisting manipulation by those of whatever stripe who desire only to fleece them and increase their own slice of the pie at the expense of the whole.

    7. Oh, the Board has faults too. One glaring one was not doing more to protect our vulnerable adults from Abele's abdication of his responsibility to them.

      But I would recommend that you go and enjoy the warm weather while it's here. Your obviously becoming upset that your empty rhetoric can't stand up to reality, hence the increase in spelling and grammar mistakes and your baseless personal attacks on me and the blog.

    8. Just multitasking! You and your blog aren't worth getting upset about but it is interesting to shake the tree a little. Interesting to find it's all about you after all. And your paranoia is breathtaking. Personal attacks, really? Do you actually even live in Milwaukee County?

  4. Sorry, i wanted to read your whole diatribe, I really did. However I got stuck at this little speedbump:

    " I'll respond last to first. I personally have done rather well under Walker. And therein lies the problem, right? Because a lot of people who consistently vote have done rather well under Walker. In my case, I am one of those Democrats who sees the value in enlarging the whole pie and not just a piece or two - "

    Say What?

    There are alot of liberals who are doing much better under Walker?? I would love to meet one. Unless of course your blaming the crash of the economy on Doyle and not on the banksters. I also would like to know what Walker has done to "increase the pie".

    1. Walker has done nothing to increase the pie - that's the point. And liberals aren't all poor people and public employees you know.

  5. He has shrunk the im not sure the point your trying to make

    1. The pie may be shrinking but some segments find their slices growing. Makes it tough for them to vote for or fund someone else.

  6. Whose segments have a growing slice? The only people whose slice is growing that I can think of is Chris Cline, Scott "convicted felon" Jensen, and Kurt Bauer