Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce Building
501 E. Washington Avenue
Management: Bob Oyler, James Buchen, Ed Lump and Daniel Petersen
Labor: Phillip Neuenfeldt, Red Platz, Dennis Penkalski, and Robert Lyons
Chair: Greg Frigo
Department staff present: Hal Bergan, Bob Whitaker, Carol Laudenbach, Dick Tillema, Andrea Reid, Terese Wojick, Tom Smith, Gretchen Mrozinski, Jim Pflasterer, Carla Breber, Terry Ludeman, and Nadine Konrath
Others present: Tom Devine of Wisconsin National and Community Service Board, Mike Mikalsen of Representative Nass’ office, Larry Smith of UC Management Services
Carol Laudenbach is retiring effective January 14, 2005. Carol was presented with a plaque commemorating her service.
Hal Bergan gave a brief summary of Senate Labor Committee Hearing. Positive comments made about UIAC during hearing. Buchen was present for hearing.
The October 25, 2004 UIAC Meeting minutes were approved (handout).
Hal Bergan updated Council on Reed Act Funds and Apprenticeship program. Bergan, Buchen and the Secretary met. The Dept. will try to find a permanent source of funding for the Apprenticeship program in lieu of using Reed Act Funds. No guarantees. It is to everyone’s advantage if a permanent source of funding is found. The search is ongoing and will involve the next few months. Lyons would like a history of funding for the Apprenticeship program including amounts and sources. Buchen believes that the Secretary told him that previous funding came from the GPR.
Bruce Hagen would like the opportunity to speak at a future UIAC Meeting concerning the use of UI wage record information by financial institutions. The Council agreed to let Hagen make his presentation. Frigo noted that per a UIPL, what Hagen is asking for is acceptable, but must be “done right.”
Nadine Konrath presented two law change proposals from the Dept (handouts).
The first proposal would make it clear that warrants may be filed against persons who have been found personally liable for a corporate or LLC debt. Would not apply to LLPs because the Dept. is not having a problem with LLPs. This does not really change current practice. Rather, this amends language to prevent future problems. Motion made to approve, seconded and unanimously passed by Council.
The second proposal involved a third-party levy fee of $5 every time the employer, bank or insurance company would have to levy money from the claimant’s wages or account—or the employer’s account. Currently, the $5 levy fee is only allowed once, regardless of the number of times the levy is made. Concerns were voiced that this would be too costly for the claimants that earned low wages as a levy could happen several times per month. Concerns were voiced that the employer or financial institution had to cover their costs when implementing a levy. Approximately 8000 individuals are affected by a levy each year for UI purposes; approximately ½ are employees and ½ are employers. All 8000 are paper transfers and as such, have administrative costs associated. The Dept. does not levy against persons at or below the poverty level. Concerns were voiced that $5 is quite a bit to charge for each act of levy. UI does not use garnishments to collect debts. The Dept. does release levies and implement installment plans. The Council would like to caucus on this proposal.
Carla Breber presented a Dept. law change proposal involving Volunteer Firefighters (handout). The proposal would require that all wages earned by volunteer firefighters, emergency medical technicians and first responders be included when applying the formula to determine benefits due for a week of partial unemployment. These “volunteers” would have to report their wages as earned. Even without this proposal, the municipalities/employers that employ these volunteers are still potentially liable for partial benefits as long as the base period wages are 5% or greater. However, if the municipality/employer proactively advises the Dept. about the claim, then the employer would receive a noncharge. This proposal is a matter of equity and administration. The employers would not have additional reporting requirements. Concerns were voiced about having to advise the firefighters or employers about this change. This proposal will be carried over until the next meeting so that Council members can find out what their constituents think about this proposal.
Carla Breber also presented a Dept. proposal (handout) to repeal Wis. Stat. § 108.04(7)(f) because this section is rarely used and the “quit/good cause section” is used instead. Motion, seconded, unanimously passed.
Carla Breber presented a Dept. proposal (handout) that would remove the reference to “(2)(a) or (d)” from Wis. Stat. § 108.04(16)(b) and (c)2, to prevent an unintended relief of charges (non-charge) to employers when claimants are not able and available for work but are eligible for benefits because they are enrolled in approved training. Breber explained that this reference which allowed for a non-charge was unintended when Wisconsin Act 197 was created. So, the current proposal would remedy this unintended consequence. However, the Council questioned why employers should be charged for any benefits when a claimant is in approved training? Management has interest in this issue, so carry over for next meeting.
Tom Devine from Wisconsin National and Community Service Board asked the Council to consider an exemption that would exclude Americorps participants from UI coverage. Devine explained that by allowing benefits, a funding issue was created for the nonprofits or state agencies that contracted with Americorps. Devine explained that this a volunteer program and participants should not be eligible for UI benefits. Mrozinski passed out a memo concerning the Dept.’s current practice concerning Americorps participants. Nothing in the law states that Americorps participants cannot receive UI benefits based upon the services they perform as an Americorps participant. Devine explained that there are some exceptions to his request such as the 300 Americorps teachers in the Milwaukee area that are receiving entry level teacher’s salaries and not just the normal, small stipend that Americorps participants receive. These teachers would be covered for UI purposes. However, the vast majority of Americorps participants should not be covered. There are about 600 Americorps participants/volunteers in Wisconsin. An exemption would need a statutory change. Management would be willing to recommend an exemption. Labor is unsure and needs further information. Devine will provide the Dept with a list of all programs and all of the employees of these programs in Wisconsin that work with Americorps participants. The Dept. will go through these names and find out how many of these people claimed and received UI benefits in 2003. This topic will be carried over for next meeting.
Carla Breber presented proposed rule change concerning DWD 127 (handout) that dealt with cleaning up the current language, with no substantive change. A motion was made, seconded and unanimously passed to place these changes into the formal rule-making process.
Bob Whitaker discussed what the Dept. intends to do concerning the verification of work searches. The Dept. will educate the claimant on what is expected. The Dept. will contact the claimant via a letter in their 3rd week of unemployment and advise the claimant that proof of their work search must be submitted in writing for their 4th week of unemployment. Benefits would be held until proof was submitted. This would be seasonal in nature and depend on Dept. resources. The letter/form that would be mailed out in the 3rd week of unemployment is currently being drafted and will be provided to the Council when complete. In future, its is possible that the federal government will require more of such efforts to verify a work search. We will start this verification in the spring of 2005.
Carla Breber demonstrated for the Council how the COED system works via a laptop and various examples of work titles, wages etc. Ludeman assisted. Concern was expressed that mistakes could still be made by Dept. personnel concerning the correct job title and wages. The Dept. recognizes that mistakes can happen, but explained that the users of this system are extensively trained to ask a variety of questions to eliminate the chance of mistakes. Ludeman explained that we need this system because the Dept. does not have the resources to supply live labor market testimony in every instance. The Council asked if this system could be made available to the public? This was considered as too costly when the system was implemented and is likely too costly now. Laudenbach explained that part of the Enables project is to provide more information to the public and COED is a prime candidate. What is holding Dept. back is technology.
Hal Bergan discussed the temporary help issue and stated that a meeting took place between several people from the temporary help agencies, members of the Council (Buchen and Penkalski) and Greg Frigo. The current policy was discussed and the temporary employment agencies explained their concerns. A “move towards consensus” was reached. We will provide definitions of what is acceptable and fair for employee/employer contracts and put this in writing for the next Council meeting. A consensus was met in that a fair agreement must first be reached between the employer and the employee before the 7 & 7 rule would be applied.
Dick Tillema explained that the financial report update is due to the Governor and the legislative leadership by January 15, 2005 and will send the Council a draft before it is released. In sum, economic growth continues but is slower at 3% for 2005. Economy and employment growth is modest. We will pay out $800 million in benefits through 2008. We will collect $600 million in employer taxes in 2004 and $687 million in 2005. The Reserve Fund will continue to decline. This is all based upon the official economic forecast used by the Departments of Administration and Revenue. Our last prediction was “pretty close” to what actually happened in 2004.
Penkalski voiced concern whether the Dept. is doing anything to make sure that our soldiers that are coming back from Iraq are getting benefits without delay or problem. Frigo said that he would take a look at this.
Next Council meeting is planned for January 18, 2005 at 1 p.m. at AFSCME.