Republicans Withhold Raises for UW System Staff in DEI Dispute

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Bascom Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. (Photo credit: Phil Roeder/Flickr)

The Republican-led Wisconsin Legislature has greenlit a 6 percent pay raise for all state workers except University of Wisconsin (UW) system employees as part of a larger initiative to cut funding for DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) programs.

Earlier this year, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) promised to block over $100 million in pay raises for UW’s 34,000 employees unless officials removed DEI positions at the system’s schools.

Both parties in the legislature had previously approved wage increases for UW workers, including a 4 percent increase in fiscal year 2024 and a 2 percent increase the following year. However, the Joint Committee on Employee Relations, controlled by Republicans and co-chaired by Vos, did not approve the plan.

“We’re only doing half our job today,” Democratic Senate Minority Leader Melissa Agard said in a statement. “We are denying pay increases to half of our state workforce because of one person’s resistance to inclusion on our campuses.”

Lawmakers cut $32 million from the UW system budget over the summer, an amount Republicans determined was planned to be spent on DEI across the system’s 13 campuses in the next two years. Although the budget cuts were approved, Gov. Tony Evers (D) line-item vetoed a proposal to slash 188 DEI-related job positions.

On Tuesday, Vos said he was open to approving pay raises if the UW system gave up the power to create its own jobs, including DEI roles, reports the Associated Press.

The fight in Wisconsin against DEI in higher education reflects a movement started by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) last year. Since then, legislation has been approved across the country targeting DEI office operations, hiring, and training.