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For Immediate Release

Friday, September 30, 2011

Labor Activists Defend Workers’ Rights for Milwaukee City Employees

Milwaukee, Wis. — 

City public service workers, community members and activists were joined by AFSCME members from across the country today at Red Arrow Park to protect collective bargaining rights and defend the vital public services that the people of Milwaukee rely on.

“Today the people of Milwaukee are calling on our elected leaders to stand up for the working middle class and for essential public services in a time of great need,” said Rich Abelson, Executive Director of AFSCME Council 48. “Milwaukee public service workers need a voice on the job through an ordinance to restore some of the rights that the governor has stripped away.”

Hundreds of members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees District Council 48 (Milwaukee), AFSCME Council 24 and participants in AFSCME’s National Women’s Conference being held this week in Milwaukee urged the city’s Common Council to recognize the rights of public service workers and protect essential public services, especially during these difficult times.

“In these tough times, Milwaukeeans need to pull together to find solutions that work for everyone,” said Annie Wacker, a city resident and president of AFSCME Local 1954. “We can’t cut our way to prosperity.”

When the contract with the City of Milwaukee expires on Dec. 31, Milwaukee’s public service workers, members of AFSCME Council 48, will lose their collective bargaining rights. At that point, they will lose their ability to bargain over wages, hours and working conditions because of the new state law that stripped away the collective bargaining rights of nearly 200,000 Wisconsin public service employees, including more than 60,000 AFSCME members.

“The workers who make Milwaukee an orderly, clean and vibrant city shouldn’t be treated as second class citizens,” said Ken Wischer, a truck driver and equipment operator for the city’s public works department and a member of AFSCME Local 423. “We deserve a voice on the job so we can continue to provide great services to the public.”

The rally also put a spotlight on expected budget cuts and other changes that will adversely affect public service workers and the citizens of Milwaukee who rely on vital public services.

“The people of Milwaukee know that you can’t build a strong middle class when you’re tearing down the services that help people find a way up,” said AFSCME International Secretary-Treasurer Lee A. Saunders. “And you can’t build a strong city by taking it apart, brick by brick by brick.”

“These are not just attacks on public service workers, but the middle class itself,” added Paulette Feld, who works at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh and is President of AFSCME Council 24. “These politicians are creating massive deficits by giving tax breaks to the rich, while balancing the budget on the backs of the working middle class.”

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