MADISON (AP) — The secretary of Wisconsin's Department of Corrections will not respond to a letter sent from the head of the state employees' union asking about the agency's operations because the union is no longer officially recognized, a department spokeswoman said.
Marty Beil, executive director of the Wisconsin State Employees Union, sent the letter to Corrections Secretary Ed Wall last week. Beil said the questions came from union members who work in the prisons.
But Corrections spokeswoman Jackie Guthrie said in an email Tuesday that Wall does not intend to respond to the letter because the union is no longer certified to officially represent workers. The union chose not to seek certification following passage of the law pushed by Gov. Scott Walker that took away all collective bargaining rights except when negotiating base wages.
Beil said the letter is not an attempt to negotiate a contract, but is merely a request to get answers to questions for union workers at the prisons. The letter sought information about when prison workers will be forced to work overtime and how a seniority-based pay grid will be implemented.
"The department prefers to stonewall rather than answer some simple questions," Beil said Wednesday in an email to The Associated Press. He said the union has a 60-year relationship with the department, dating back to before it was formally recognized by the state or Wisconsin had a collective bargaining law.
He said the union "continues to represent the interests of thousands of state employees who understand they cannot afford to go it alone against such an aloof and arbitrarily punitive administration."
The letter from Beil dated Feb. 8 came a week after he testified at a legislative hearing that safety has deteriorated at Wisconsin's prisons since workers lost union protections 14 months ago, creating an environment that's led to seven assaults of guards since Christmas Eve.
Beil has also vocally criticized Wall for threatening Corrections workers with discipline, including losing their job, for spreading rumors about the department or sending inappropriate emails.
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