In a move that is sure to stir controversy, the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors on Thursday approved the employment authorization card that would allow county workers to work in Wisconsin without fear of losing their jobs.
It’s a big win for the county’s embattled chief financial officer, a unionized worker and others.
The measure is part of a larger overhaul of the county government in recent years, one that has resulted in a dramatic rise in layoffs and budget cuts.
The Milwaukee County Employee Benefits Agency is now tasked with making sure employees have the right paperwork to work, but that’s not the same as giving them the right to work without fear.
“This is an important step in making sure that the county is a welcoming place for all employees,” said Scott Knepp, a spokesman for the board.
“Employers must make reasonable accommodations for employees to be employed in their designated location.”
Kneppa said he’s confident the county will see significant growth in the next few years.
The bill passed Thursday by the board is a step in the right direction, he said.
“We have to move forward with the implementation of this legislation, and I’m optimistic that the legislative process will move forward,” he said in a statement.
“I’m confident that it will move quickly.”
The county is one of four in Wisconsin to allow for some type of employment authorization cards.
The other counties are Madison, Wausau and Racine.
The state’s largest county, Milwaukee, has been grappling with a wave of job losses as it grapples with an aging population and a chronic budget shortfall.
It has been one of the state’s most troubled cities, with a high rate of crime and the highest poverty rate in the state.
The county also faces major questions about how to pay its employees.
It is one that will be debated in court this week as the city and county negotiate a new contract with the state, the first major step toward paying the nearly $2.5 billion it owes the state in overdue pension and health care costs.
The current contract expires in 2019, but the board’s action comes as the state legislature is negotiating a new agreement.
That deal could include a $100 million increase in the salaries of county employees.
The agency is a small one, with more than 200 employees.
Knepps told the board it was important to pass the bill.
“It’s time to move this bill forward, because it’s a step toward protecting our employees and putting the county back on track,” he told the newspaper.
The proposal would have been voted on unanimously.
But the board said it needed more time to make sure the information it would have received was accurate and would not affect any employees.
This is the first time an employment authorization has been approved by the county board in nearly 50 years, Kneppe said in his statement.
He said the bill was “firmly opposed” by the state Department of Administration.