State labor leaders are urging lawmakers to reconsider plans to vote this week on a bill overhauling Wisconsin’s civil service system. The Senate is expected to give final approval to the bill when it meets Wednesday, which would streamline the hiring and firing process for state civil service jobs.
Republicans argue the changes are needed to simplify the hiring process used to fill vacant state positions by moving away from the current civil service exam and using a resume-based hiring system. They also want a more uniform way of dealing with problem employees and more flexibility in giving new hires time to adjust to the job.
Critics contend the changes will result in politics having a greater effect on jobs that have traditionally been somewhat insulated from that influence.
AFSCME International Vice President Gary Mitchell believes the legislation will hurt a system that has helped prevent corruption and cronyism for over a century, pointing out that resume hiring is prone to a lot of “embellishment” that could make it easier for unqualified candidates to get hired by the state. “There won’t be objective criteria for hiring, there will be subjective criteria…which really opens the door for hiring cronies and political appointees,” he argues.
Mitchell says the system will still be known by the name “civil service,” although he contends it won’t really mean what it used to if the changes are allowed to be put into place. “They name things, but they don’t really mean the same as they used to.”
The Assembly approved the bill last fall, but the Senate held off on voting until the spring floor period because of a dispute in the Republican caucus over a provision that prevents state agencies from asking initial applicants about their criminal record. It remains unclear how that issue is being resolved.
If the Senate approves the bill without changes it would go to Governor Scott Walker, who supports the proposal.