City Council Members Vote to Lower Union Wage Rate Submitted: 04/08/2013
Story By Shardaa Gray

RHINELANDER - Most city council meetings are fairly quiet.

But what brought Rhinelander residents out tonight was a battle that's become a common one in Wisconsin.

"Equal pay for equal work,"

That's what Union workers wanted to maintain at tonight's city council meeting in Rhinelander.

"We are going to be advocating that this is not how we entered this agreement in good faith," AFSCME staff representative, John Spiegelhoff said.

"Therefore we're advocating for the city to not go through with this ordinance change and to vote it down."

The city is looking for ways to save money.

One way is to lower the wage rate on new department of public works hires by four dollars an hour.

"Before you make the move to reduce four dollars an hour from the wages of people who do the type of work that are covered in the contract which is a tremendous cut in pay," said Rhinelander resident, Dennis O'Brien.

"It really would be fare and prudent at your part to review this more carefully."

A union rep says doing so won't just affect the department of public works.

"This is going to adversely affect labor relations within the city if it goes through," Spiegelhoff said.

"As well as the businesses that are going to be adversely affected."

But the city says it doesn't have more money to give.

"The words that I heard were we want more not less. There is no more." Rhinelander Alderman, Mark Pelletier said.

"If you look at the tax increase that the city has done in the past few years, there's not much capacity to raise taxes on our residents going forward, said Rhinelander Alderman, Alex Young.

"There just isn't money in the piggy bank to keep going the way we're going."

The council voted unanimously in favor of the decrease.

"All those in favor signify by saying "I" "EYE" votes opposed. Motion carried. Ordinance stands."

Young thinks the new wage rate is still a competitive rate.

This new proposal will not affect the current workers, only the new hires.

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