Wisconsin counties and police unions are in disagreement about the employment classification of jailers. More counties are dropping jailers’ protected status, meaning they won't be represented by unions.
In a press release, Chippewa County Administrator Frank Pascarella says the county is changing the job classification of jailers from the protective category to the general category. Under the protective category jailers got the option of early retirement, special disability payments and didn’t have to pay in to their state run pensions. As general employees, they lose those benefits and can no longer collectively bargain. Wisconsin Professional Police Association President Jim Palmer says it’s a short-sighted move, “If these employees are injured on the job they will no longer qualify for duty disability, they can no longer qualify for an earlier retirement and they also will lose any bargaining rights and that really is the goal here and that’s pretty apparent.”
Chippewa County has said that by having jailers pay into their own pensions, the county is saving $200,000 per year. Palmer says the costs of legal challenges and higher turnover will negate those savings, “For these counties to either try to change their duties to take away this classification or just take away the classification without changing the duties as some are doing, I just think there are a lot of long term costs that these counties aren’t considering fully.”
Palmer says about 30 counties across the state had included jailers in the protected category for more than three decades, but since Act 10, nearly half those counties have moved jailers to the general category.