AFSCME Legislative Report - October 6

AFSCME Wisconsin Legislative Report

Friday, October 6, 2017 

Wisconsin “gerrymandering” case now before the US Supreme Court

A case that has the potential to bring about more fairness in legislative elections  in Wisconsin and across the nation is now being heard by the US Supreme Court.  

“Whitford vs. Gill” presents a compelling case about how extremists in Wisconsin unfairly drew boundaries that resulted in Republican supermajorities in the Wisconsin legislature since 2012. They gains made happened after legislative Republicans wrote the new and highly gerrymandered legislative district boundaries in secret and rushed a bill through the legislative process in the summer of 2011. 

Learn more about the case from the Wisconsin Fair Elections Project - .

Former US Senator Russ Feingold weighed in on the case in recent column, “Will the fate of America’s democracy be decided by this US supreme court case?”  

Bill proposal would diminish FMLA benefits for Wisconsin workers

In 1988, Wisconsin was one of the first states in the nation to pass a state Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).  In 1993, the Congress enacted a federal FMLA law.   Both laws provide what is now considered a common benefit for working people – the ability to take unpaid time off to deal with their own major medical situation, to care for a newborn child or care for family members without fear of losing their job. 

Wisconsin’s law is more generous to workers than is the federal law and there are other key differences.  Here is a link for information about the two laws:

It should come as no surprise that, this week, Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Rep. Joan Ballweg (R-Markesan) are circulating a proposal that would allow some Wisconsin employers to disregard the  Wisconsin FMLA law if they are subject to the federal FMLA law.  The bill has not been assigned a bill number yet but is known as “LRB 2015/1”. 

If enacted, the Darling/Ballweg bill would result in a loss of protections under Wisconsin FMLA.  It would:

-              Require employees to work more total hours in a year to qualify for FMLA benefits (1250 hours versus 1000 hours).

-              Bar individuals from caring for parents-in-law or domestic partners. (Wisconsin’s law essentially defines family more broadly than the federal FMLA).

-              Exempt people who work between 20-26 hours per week (covered under Wisconsin’s FMLA).

-              Not cover employees of businesses with fewer than 50 employees spread through the state.

-              Take away the option that workers in Wisconsin have to use their accrued leave time while on FMLA leave.

-              Put restrictions on workers who might need to take FMLA leave on an intermittent basis.

We urge you to contact your state representative and your state senator to urge them NOT to support “LRB 2015/1”. 

A separate bill would improve FMLA benefits for working people in Wisconsin 

On a positive note, AFSCME is proud to support a bill that would improve benefits for workers under Wisconsin’s FMLA.  The bill, offered earlier this year by Sen. Janis Ringhand (D-Evansville) and Rep. Sondy Pope (D-Cross Plains), would expand Wisconsin’s FMLA to cover more people – grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, and those on deployment.  Their bill would apply to businesses with at least 25 permanent employees, and would establish a self-sustaining fund to enable working people to keep a portion of their wages while on leave.  The Ringhand/Pope bills are 2017 Senate Bill 215 and Assembly Bill 286 respectively.

For more information, contact AFSCME lobbyist Susan McMurray at [email protected].