JUNEAU -- A total of 65 workers with the Dodge County Highway Department are now represented by a union.

According to Dodge County Administrator Jim Mielke, the local union was formed this week after the employees of the Dodge County Highway Department petitioned to be able to do so earlier this year.

"The employees of the highway department petitioned the state of Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission to become represented and the commission went through a process," Mielke said. "Administratively, the process is handled by that commission and through that process a mail-in ballot was provided and the ballots were tallied Wednesday. The result of that was the highway employees -- excluding administration and management -- will be represented by The Labor Association of Wisconsin, Inc."

Sixty-five of the workers now fall under the union classification.

"Historically, prior to Act 10, there was a significant number of county highway operations in the state that were represented," Mielke said. "Post Act 10, there are fewer. But there are a number of counties that have their employees represented. From the county's perspective, we respect the right of the employees to petition for the right to be represented. As an employer, we will abide by the results and follow the law as it relates to the represented employees."

The highway workers are not the only Dodge County employees who are represented by a union. The sworn officers of the county's sheriff's department are also unionized.

"The sheriff's sworn officers are represented, as well, by The Labor Association of Wisconsin, Inc.," Mielke said, adding the county has a labor contract in place with these employees.

According to Mielke, under current law, the only subject that is negotiable by the highway department's new union will be base wages.

"And under current law, the maximum adjustment to base wage is limited to the consumer price index -- that is the maximum," Mielke said.

He said other issues surrounding employment, such as benefits and working hours and conditions, are not subject to bargaining under current law.

Mielke was unsure when officers for the local highway department employees' union would be elected.

"I'm not sure on the timing of that. But at some point, I anticipate the members of the local will be holding some type of meeting to elect their officers," he said. "But there has been no direct communication with Dodge County related to that."

Mielke stressed the county respects the rights of the highway workers to have union representation.

"As an employer, Dodge County respects the rights of them to petition for this. We understand the employees' right to do this and we will certainly abide by that," he said.

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