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Milwaukee social services workers wage increases and employer pension contributions ‘paused’

By staff

MCFI places these signs outside agency buildings while attacking workers

Milwaukee, WI – Around this time every year, open-enrollment for health insurance benefits begins at the Milwaukee Center For Independence (MCFI), a social services agency in Milwaukee. Workers at the agency meet a range of needs such as mental health services, day-programming for people with disabilities, and job-training for people who want to enter the workforce.

On May 15, as in years past, workers received an email from the vice president of human resources updating them on changes to health insurance benefits. At first glance, the news appeared pretty standard: insurance premiums went up slightly and a new high-deductible plan was introduced. However, this year management at MCFI slipped another bullet point into their communication: raises and employer contributions to workers’ retirement accounts would be “paused.” There was no mention of when these would resume.

This is the second devastating hit that workers at MCFI have experienced during the coronavirus pandemic. Back in March, workers in the day-programs for people with disabilities and workers in most of the job training programs were laid off without notice or pay. Now the remaining essential workers, mostly community mental health workers who are still making home visits and risking their health in the process, are being told by MCFI management that they might not get raises this year. Raises at MCFI are based on annual performance reviews and the most a worker’s pay can go up is only 4.5% per year.

MCFI management continues to send out communications saying how appreciated workers are at MCFI and management has placed signs outside agency buildings declaring that “HEROES Work Here!!!” While many companies across the country have introduced premium pay for essential workers, and other companies are cutting executive pay, the executives at MCFI are still drawing down six-figure incomes and essential workers will not even receive meager increases that they have earned.

The union at MCFI, AFSCME Local 1954, continues to fight against the decisions made by MCFI management, because essential workers deserve essential pay. Rank-and-file members have encouraged anyone disgusted by the company’s actions to visit their social media pages ( @MCFIMain on Facebook and @MCFISocial on Twitter) and leave a comment letting them know to stop these attacks.

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