Dispute at Veterans Home at King Heating Up


A dispute between workers at the Wisconsin Veterans Home at King and the state Department of Veterans Affairs could be heating up. The director of the Wisconsin State Employees Union says the department is ignoring the need to hire more people to care for the 700 veterans who live there.

WSEU Director Marty Biel says since nurses and nursing assistants at the King home lost collective bargaining rights the veterans department has stalled on filling 30 open positions and is forcing current nursing staff to work long hours of overtime. At a union sponsored listening session last week many nurses told Biel that current conditions at the home put both staff and patients at risk. Biel says that’s because an increasing number of patients at the home have acute medical or mental health care needs that require constant one on one care, “It is very clear that well that the administration of the department of vets affairs have absolutely what’s happening at King veterans home,” he says. “Either they’ve been smoking some bad weed or they’re just outta touch.”

Earlier this month, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary John Scocos released a memo calling the union’s staffing complaints totally false. Scocos says there is no forced overtime, and that staff complaints are being addressed at periodic town hall style listening sessions or in one on one sessions with supervisors. But Margaret Worthington of Wautoma heard something else at the union listening session last week, “They spoke of being told not to talk to the media about the staffing issues of a quote unquote gag rule,” he says. “I believe that they are scared because they’re being told to speak up as individuals. There’s a sense of being intimidated and not being able to speak up for fear of having it held against you.”

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Worthington lives near the King home and is running as a Democrat in the November election against incumbent Republican Luther Olsen. One member of the state Veterans’ Board attended the meeting but was not available for comment.