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Domestic Partnership News Archive
July 29 - July 31, 2001




This page contains news for the period July 29, 2001 through July 31, 2001.



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Tuesday, July 31, 2001

Milwaukee city new union contract would include all couples

A story published today by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report that the city's largest union on Monday approved a new two-year contract for the second time, but this one has a better chance with the Common Council because it extends health benefits to all unmarried couples, not just same-sex ones.

About 60% of the 1,270 members of District Council 48 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees who voted Monday voted in favor of the contract, said bargaining committee chairman John Garland.

"The big job comes now," Garland said after the vote. "We've done our part; now we hope (the Common Council) does their part."

A tight vote is expected when the council takes up the contract later this week.

In May, aldermen rejected the deal, which included only same-sex benefits, on a 9-8 vote.

Officials believe that the new deal, which city negotiators struck fearing that an arbitration loss would lead to even higher pay raises, will win council approval. By extending the benefits to all unmarried couples, aldermen who opposed the previous contract on the grounds that it was unfair have little room to argue that now.

Backers on the Common Council said extending health, dental and funeral leave to same-sex partners of city workers would cost about $60,000 a year. They have put the same price tag on providing the benefits to all unmarried couples because the original calculation was based on the experience of Madison and other cities that provide the benefits to all.

"This shows that AFSCME and its members have made the good-faith effort to keep costs down for the City of Milwaukee," Ald. Mike D'Amato said Monday evening. "Now it's our turn as the council to act in good faith and pass this contract once and for all."

Critics counter that the cost actually will be much higher because the AFSCME contract typically becomes a pattern for all unions representing general city workers. One estimate put the cost at about $220,000 a year when applied across the board.

Ald. Tom Nardelli predicted that if approved by the council, the contract would become a costly bureaucratic and fiscal nightmare for Milwaukee taxpayers.

"How do we know where a relationship begins and ends? How does one verify who is partners with whom?" Nardelli asked. "It really is a question of how one maintains a record of a relationship that is absent a license.

Aides to Mayor John O. Norquist and supporters on the council argue the risk to taxpayers is great if the council rejects the deal again. If AFSCME then pursues the matter all the way to an arbitrator's decision, and wins the percentage raises it seeks there, it would cost taxpayers $1.5 million more a year if the same raises then go to all general city workers.

At least two aldermen - Jeff Pawlinski and Terrance Herron - have said they are open to voting for the new agreement. The council's Finance and Personnel Committee is to take it up Wednesday, with the full council to vote Thursday.

Girlfriend of British trooper to sue for pension benefits

A story released today by the Associated Newspapers Ltd. reports that the girlfriend of a British SAS trooper killed during the rescue of six kidnapped British soldiers in Sierra Leone is set to sue the Ministry of Defense unless it makes proper provision for her and their daughter.

Tony Blair is said to be so worried about the potential bad publicity that he has become personally involved in the negotiations over a pension for Anna Homsi, who lived with Trooper Brad Tinnion, 28.

The SAS is backing her case to get the same pension as would any widow of a soldier killed in action. The MoD says this is impossible under the current rules, but remains "sympathetic to Miss Homsi's position".

Miss Homsi, 30, had been with Mr. Tinnion for 10 years and was pregnant with his daughter Georgia, now eight years old, when he was killed.

Even though Homsi was named as the chief beneficiary in the trooper's will, she is entitled to nothing and was only granted a one-off discretionary payment of 20,000. She said: "We are looking into legal action on the grounds that I did not get the same benefit as a married partner. We are in discussions with the MoD."

Liberal Democrat defense spokesman Paul Keetch asked Mr. Blair last month to examine why the MoD had not asked for dispensation to pay Miss Homsi the equivalent of a widow's pension.

"Brad gave his life for his country. Surely the Government should make sure that the people he cared for most are looked after?" he said.

The Prime Minister told the Commons that he would investigate the matter and praised Mr. Tinnion as "an extraordinarily brave young man."

The increasing number of service men and women who live with partners outside of marriage is gradually forcing the armed forces to confront a number of social problems. There is much discussion within the services as to whether unmarried couples are entitled to the same housing and pension rights as their married colleagues.

The Royal Navy, which has many sailors in long-term unmarried relationships, has been pressing for them to be treated as if they were wed, but the Army is much less enthusiastic. Senior Army officers are thought to believe there are problems in encouraging soldiers to move into Army housing with their girlfriends.



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