State employees: Campaign on your own time

This is a topic that really rankles me — public employees who campaign for their favorite candidate or cause in the classroom, the prison or in the courthouse.

I love public employees. They do the jobs that are needed by society — educating our children, picking up our garbage, protecting us from harm and guarding those who have broken society’s laws. I appreciate the work they do and am glad that our tax dollars go keep them employed.

However, when one of my child’s teachers stood in front of the classroom and encouraged students to go home and tell their parents how to vote for school board, congress or governor, it crossed the line. I pay taxes for them to teach my children, not lobby me through them.

I’m not naive — I know unions lobby for candidates who will vote pro-labor, so I wasn’t surprised when I received  e-mails showing an AFSCME Council 24 union representative encouraging fellow members to take “lost time”  to campaign for Tom Barrett.

“Lost time” is  essentially time taken of the job to do union work, which is paid by the union. By taking lost time, an employee preserves their seniority, sick and vacation time and retirement benefits with the state.

The initial email was forwarded to more DOC employees by Gina Toutant, who works at Fox Lake Correctional facility and is the Local 1005 president. The initial emails are vague as to what the political activity is. Granted, the initial email from East Central District Field Representative Todd Wetzel doesn’t mention Barrett. But pull up theAFSCME 24 SEPAC page and you’ll find a happy picture of Tom Barrett and his family along with headlines disparaging Scott Walker.

I guess we know where this union stands on the upcoming election.

The person who provided these emails is an employee of the Department of Corrections and union member, and has asked to remain anonymous. Aside from the initial email, which was sent from an AFSCME Council 24 address, all of the subsequent emails were sent from and to DOC email addresses. According to the employee, these are state-issued accounts that can only be accessed from computers in state institutions.

I don’t pay people to do their political business on my time, and as taxpayers, we shouldn’t stand for it. In fact, state statutes and the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development have guidelines for state employee political activity, including no soliciting votes for a partisan candidate, no direct or indirect soliciting for a partisan purpose and no use of state property, materials, supplies or equipment in connection with political activity. Seems pretty clear that there is to be no political activity at work –period.

State computers, state-issued emails and paid time off to campaign — I think there are some violations here. Calls to determine if any official complaints have been filed went unreturned.

I know this won’t make any difference to die-hard  Barrett fans, but should taxpayers pay for their employees to use state computers on our time to arrange for partisan campaign activities? I don’t think so, and I think most people who pay the taxes in this state would agree.

Will this have any effect on the election in 15 days? Probably not. Barrett is trailing badly and unions don’t have the pull they used to. Hopefully someone in charge at the prison or the Attorney General’s office will sit up and impose some sanctions on this type of blatant behavior so the unions get the message that we are tired of their political shenanigans. Give me a call J.B., I’ll share the information with you.


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