Fri January 25, 2013
On Unemployment, State GOP Considers Bypassing Advisory Council
For decades, a council split evenly between leaders from management and labor has shaped decisions involving unemployment insurance in Wisconsin. As Republicans now consider circumventing that process, they're being cautioned by an unlikely source.
Governor Walker has asked the Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council to approve several changes to unemployment law. Business and labor already agreed to some, but they're deadlocked on big issues, including a plan that would give employers more leeway to deny benefits when they fire workers.
Normally the legislature would wait for the Council to reach consensus, but Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says Republicans will only wait so long: “I certainly hope we could utilize the council, but the council is not going to be an impediment to us making the reforms necessary to create jobs.”
As if to stress that point, several GOP legislators have been in the audience at the last couple council meetings.
But James Buchen, who has for years represented Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce on the council, says he hopes Republicans will fight the temptation to go around it. Buchen says the winds in the legislature change — you only have to look back three years to when Democrats ran state government, “Labor could have pushed its agenda successfully, but they didn't. And they pushed their agenda here at the council and they got what they could at the council table. And they didn't go around the process to the legislature. And, you know, we think that you just have to take the longer term view and recognize that that balance is good for all of us in the long haul. And 'suck it' up if you will.”
It's not Buchen's first warning. Two years ago he co-authored a letter with Wisconsin AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt urging Governor Walker to veto an unemployment waiting period that bypassed the council. Walker ignored the warning and signed it anyway.