Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Tom Ament: Milwaukee's Enemy

The guy should actually be in jail--or better, in a set of stocks placed on the courthouse plaza.

The 2001 labor agreement pushed by then-County Executive F. Thomas Ament combined a package of pay and benefit enhancements that even union leaders acknowledged was the sweetheart deal of a lifetime. Key new benefits that gave the biggest boost to longtime, higher-paid workers were not even sought by the union.

In addition to richer pensions, and eligibility for pension vesting rights after five years instead of 10, caps were removed on cashing out unused sick leave, which gave retiring workers five- and six-figure payouts on top of their pensions. The deal also granted a sixth week of vacation after 20 years and a fifth week for 15-year employees. The day after Thanksgiving was made a holiday for all employees. Across-the-board pay raises lifted base salaries 12% over four years.

(Recall that a fairly serious recession began in early 2000. Many Milwaukee and Wisconsin private-sector companies were cutting back, reducing benefits, and/or laying off employees.)

Monthly health insurance premiums, however, did double to $80 and $100 for single and family coverage, respectively - a change that helped persuade more than 40% of AFSCME members to vote against the whole deal in 2001.

The changes made in 2001-'04, as they applied to union and non-union workers, were advertised to cost $22 million, but were actually closer to $100 million, county auditors found in 2002.

But what's $75-80 million between friends?

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