Demonstration supports Wisconsin state worker sent home for wearing union shirt

Union members and their supporters carrying signs that read “Recall Walker” on Monday demonstrated in front of a youth facility in Irma, Wisconsin to support a local union president who last week was sent home by a facility supervisor without pay for wearing a shirt with his union’s logo on it.

Tony Bauch, an AFSCME representative, told the Wausau Daily Herald that he thought that the youth facility’s administrators were acting on behalf of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who last year succeeded in taking away Wisconsin public workers’ right to collective bargaining. “(The Walker Administration is) sitting around thinking of ways to bully people and it’s undermining morale, efficiency and safety in the workplace,” Bauch said.

Last Thursday, Ron McAllister, a youth counselor at the Lincoln Hills School and president of the AFSCME local at the school, arrived at work to find that his AFSCME sign had been removed from his office. He asked a supervisor why the sign had been removed and was told that union signs or wearing apparel weren’t allowed to worn or displayed on the premises.

That was the first time that McAllister had heard of the new policy. Previously, the facility’s dress code had said that no displays of political messages were allowed, but McAllister’s sign and a t-shirt that he had with him simply read, “AFSCME, We Make Wisconsin Happen.”

He put on his AFSCME t-shirt and was told to take it off, which he refused to do. The supervisor then had him escorted out the building and sent him home without pay.

After the incident the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, which oversees operations at Lincoln Hills, sent out a memo saying that wearing union apparel on the job was appropriate and that it would investigate the incident. So far, there’s no word whether McAllister will be reimbursed for his lost pay.

The Department of Corrections’ memo was not enough to halt the support demonstration that had already been planned for Monday.

McAllister, who has worked more than 30 years at Lincoln Hills told the Wausau Daily News the decision to not allow union apparel had to come from higher up than the administration at the facility. “Paul (Westerhaus, Lincoln Hills’ superintendent) is too intelligent to make that determination,” McAllister said.

Ken Pickett, a retired teacher at Lincoln Hills, agreed with McAllister. “People are trying to appease Walker and his agenda,” Pickett said.

The Daily News reported that

Walker faces a possible recall this spring, in part because of Act 10, a law that limits public unions’ powers and has divided the state politically. Tens of thousands of teachers, firefighters, police, carpenters, engineers and other union members protested in Madison last spring against what many people called Walker’s union-busting maneuvers.

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