Troubled Public Schools: What Wisconsin's Labor Reform Can Tell Us
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) The Kenosha, Wis. School District teachers' union was decertified September 12. Depending which people you believe, it was either decertified by a vote of the teachers or it was decertified because the union did not follow procedures and request a recertification vote as required by Wisconsin's labor reform law, popularly known as Act 10.
Regardless of how - the union is out. The question now is what are the ramifications for school teachers in the rest of the state and nationwide? What could this mean for education in America?
It could be a bellwether.
According to some published reports the schoolteachers in Kenosha, Wis. voted, Sept. 12, to decertify the Kenosha Education Association (KEA). They did so by a wide margin, according to these reports. By a near two to one margin they voted against it. Just 37% of the teachers opted to retain the union. But the union is claiming that no such election took place.
But KEA executive director Joe Kiriaki issued a notice on September 12 in which he says the union has not held a certification election. He claims the district's claim of a vote is untrue.
"For the district to promote untrue information on a right-wing conservative talk show known for bashing teachers is disgraceful," Kiriaki said. " The KEA long ago opted not to jump through the hoops created by the anti-union Act 10, and part of that is not participating in an annual, cost-prohibitive election with a threshold higher than that to elect the president of the United States. The union exists with or without a certification vote. Period. Our members will focus on affecting what matters in our schools through organizing with educators, parents and the community."
Under Act 10, the union was required to file for annual recertification by Aug. 30 if it wanted to be recognized as the bargaining unit, but it did not. Christina Brey, a spokesperson for the Wisconsin Education Association Council, which is the state body for the teachers' unions, downplayed what happened in Kenosha. She said the majority of the unions will probably not seek recertification because it is too onerous a process for them.
The Kenosha School District is the third largest in the state. The concept of decertification elections was made possible by the controversial Act 10 labor reforms, enacted under Gov. Scott Walker (R). These reforms were the cause of massive, and sometimes violent, labor demonstrations in the state house in 2011 and 2012. Act 10 also led to a recall election of Walker, which was unsuccessful.
Act 10's constitutionality was also challenged in federal court. Ironically, the constitutionality was upheld September 11, the day before the KEA decertification.
The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin was challenged in by Laborers Local 236.