MILWAUKEE — The Republican led Joint Committee on Employee Relations voted to separate employees of the University of Wisconsin system from other state workers who will receive a pay increase.
UW System President Jay Rothman is disappointed with the outcome and says they will make the best of this difficult situation.
“What’s happening right now is salaries are being withheld from people, President Rothman explained. “These salaries were approved by the legislature and signed into law by the Governor. Now they are being withheld from our employees.”
The 2023-24 State Budget accounted for a 6% pay increase over two years for state workers. Without it, Rothman says UW employees could be faced with insecurity in multiple different areas.
“These are people who have to buy food. These are people who have to pay rent. These are people who have to buy clothes for their children,” he continued. “In an inflationary environment, its very disappointing because it is impacting people.”
The Joint Committee on Employee Relations is chaired by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R- Burlington). In the past Vos has been an outspoken critic of the UW system’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs (DEI), and threatened to reduce funding for the system if the programs were not cut.
State Representative Greta Neubauer (D- Racine) also serves on the committee and said the move is related to the programs continuing.
“Speaker Vos has talked about this multiple times. He’s made clear that raises were connected to the university’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts,” Rep. Neubauer said.
When asked about future commitments to DEI programs, President Rothman said the University will have to make difficult choices:
“I think we have to consider what is in the best interesting of the State of Wisconsin. We have to be asking ourselves: ‘Do we want strong Universities of Wisconsin?’ We are funded at a level that is 42nd out of 50 states. That is not the Wisconsin that I know. That is not what is right for Wisconsin and we need to address that issue. I understand there can be policy disagreements and I’m happy to work through those policy disagreements, but we deserve to have a very strong group of Universities. It is historically what Wisconsin has had and it is being threatened now.”
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