Wisconsin GOP lawmakers have approved a two-year pay raise for state workers but omitted University of Wisconsin System staff in the fight over diversity funding.
Lawmakers Give State Employees Pay Raise
In a complex and politically charged decision that further escalates tensions between Republican legislative leaders and the University of Wisconsin (UW) System, Wisconsin GOP lawmakers recently gave their approval to a two-year pay raise for state employees.
41,000 People Were Left Out
Yet, in a significant move, the decision left out the approximately 41,000 individuals employed by the University of Wisconsin System, which triggered a heated debate over the role of diversity initiatives on campuses and their consequences.
Pay Raise for State Workers
The Joint Committee on Employee Relations, co-led by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, granted a 6% pay raise over two years to state employees who do not work within the UW System.
This encompasses various roles such as state troopers, prison guards, and other government personnel.
Exclusion of UW System Staff
In a notable omission, the pay raises did not include staff members at UW System institutions, unleashing a wave of controversy and debate.
Vos’s Firm Stand
A key point of contention emerged as Vos expressed his refusal to approve pay increases for UW System staff until diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs are dismantled on UW campuses.
Impact Beyond UW System
Senate Minority Leader Melissa Agard complained about the decision and said that UW employees constitute roughly half of the state workforce.
Agard voiced concerns that the withholding of pay raises from UW employees, based on resistance to DEI initiatives, could undermine efforts to promote equity and diversity in Wisconsin.
UW System’s Response
UW System President Jay Rothman conveyed his disappointment with the committee’s actions, deeming it unprecedented to withhold pay from tens of thousands of working families.
Campus Diversity Initiatives
The conflict over pay raises is part of a broader struggle against campus diversity initiatives, with Vos advocating for the reduction of DEI programs on UW campuses.
Last year, Vos spearheaded a GOP initiative to slash $32 million from the UW System’s budget, targeting DEI positions, a plan that was only partially averted when Governor Tony Evers intervened to preserve these positions.
Budget Cut Consequences
The budget cut remained in effect, but the UW System has the opportunity to recover the funds by reallocating them to workforce development programs.
Vos remained steadfast in his demand that additional funds will only be granted once diversity offices on campuses have been eliminated.
Exploring Negotiation Options
Vos hinted at a willingness to engage in discussions to reinstate the $32 million budget cut if the legislature gains authority over new positions, even without a requirement to dismantle DEI programming.
The pay raises, amounting to approximately $92 million, will predominantly be funded by the state, while campuses are expected to contribute roughly 30% of the funding.
Impact on Worker Earnings
UW System employees have received 2% pay raises for the past four fiscal years, but the erosion of earnings due to rising inflation has become a critical concern.
The UW-Madison faculty group PROFS appealed for immediate pay raises to help employees cope with their financial commitments and plan for their future.
The decision exemplifies the intricate political tensions revolving around campus diversity initiatives and their far-reaching influence on fiscal matters.
The dispute between legislative leaders and the UW System over DEI initiatives continues to reverberate through state workers’ compensation and the university’s operational practices.
Vos’s Position on DEI Programs
Vos sees DEI initiatives as racially divisive and exclusionary, maintaining a steadfast stance against their presence on UW campuses, which has contributed to the ongoing conflict.
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