Wisconsin Coalition to Save Civil Service
Wisconsin Civil Service:
Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
Editor’s Note: On Saturday, June 17th, the Wisconsin Coalition to Save Civil Service held a rally at the Capitol Square. Bill Franks, the Labor
Committee chair of the NAACP of Dane County, was one of two speakers at the rally.
By Bill Franks, Chair of NAACP of Dane County Labor Committee
For more than 100 years, Wisconsin Civil Service thrived and continued to lead the way in progressive, non-partisan administration and
delivery of vital public services generously bankrolled by the individuals and corporations of this State, through their tax contributions.
We need to keep in mind, that the growth in public services was no accident or coincidence. The good people of this State chose to maintain
standards of living for the public that ensured basic services, whether in Education, Health, Public Safety, Environmental Stewardship or
Regulation of Industry, to name several, were in place and functioning.
Although there were politics all around, the Civil Service existed to minimize and in some cases eliminate that influence. Particularly, the
hiring process emphasized that “the best shall serve”, not the best connected, or who gave money to politicians. An era of “Clean
Government” was the norm and the workings of government were left to merit hired public employees who implemented statutory edicts as
determined by representatives elected by the people. We’re in an environment where a wholehearted return to patronage is the unstated but
actual intent of those currently in power. Not only has the hiring process been “greased up” again, by centralizing hiring through the Governor,
the firing process has similarly been streamlined.
Notions of “due process” have been turned on their head. Act 10 in 2011 disenfranchised 30,000 state public workers by eliminating their
collective bargaining rights. The further politicization of state jobs continued with the enactment of Wisconsin Act 150. More than 100 years of
standardized, no patronage hiring came to a screeching halt. The standards that provided quality control for “…ensuring the best shall serve”
the State, were discarded.
Ironically, the Governor claimed that workers didn’t need their unions because of Wisconsin’s great Civil Service law. Rest assured the
“Performance Management System” that was supposed to have been developed in September 2016 has likely not been put in place. Rest
assured that the predictable consequences of reintroducing political patronage into the State’s hiring system will happen. Rest assured that the
bait and switch tactics of the Governor and subsequent redistribution of patronage upward, will not end unless the incumbents in power are
And tomorrow? That’s up to us, as long as we resist and hold those in power accountable, we’re upholding the legacy of the LaFollette Era