Stand up and be counted as a voice for high quality public education and public services!More
I’ve always loved attending our AFT-Wisconsin convention. Spending time with union leaders and activists from across our state is a great reminder of the diversity and strength of our membership. And beyond that, it energizes me, as a public sector employee and as a union member, for the important work that lies ahead of us in Wisconsin.
Yesterday’s election results were disappointing, to say the least. With Scott Walker’s reelection, we’re going to have some tough fights on our hands in the coming months. We must remain vigilant against many threats that are likely to come our way, including forced public school privatization, outsourcing of state positions, further cuts to higher education, and centralization of power in the state technical college system. But while the political environment in the Capitol will continue to present us with challenges, remember—AFT-Wisconsin members are resilient.
You’ve probably heard about the student loan debt crisis in America. As politicians have cut state funding for our public colleges and universities over the years, tuition has gone up—way up—and students have been left with the bill. Making matters worse, the economic recovery in Wisconsin has been abysmal thanks to Scott Walker’s failed policies, and the good-paying jobs that would help Wisconsinites repay their student loans just aren’t there. As a result, the average debt per student in Wisconsin is nearly $25,000, while Wisconsin is at the bottom of the Midwest in job creation.
This morning, the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued its ruling in Madison Teachers, Inc. v. Walker, in which the Court’s conservative majority overturned Judge Juan Colas’s 2012 decision that found most of Act 10 unconstitutional for municipal employees. The decision did not affect our state employee and UW System unions, which have been operating under Act 10 since 2011. As expected, a majority of the Court upheld the law, which is no surprise—the conservative ideologues that make up the Court’s majority have reliably sided with Scott Walker and big-money special interests in nearly every major case over the past few years. This decision is aptly summarized by Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, joined by Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, in her dissent, which states that "the majority's failure to address the actual issues presented in this case allows it to reach results that countenance the needless diminution of multiple constitutional rights." While I (and our legal counsel) strongly disagree with the Court’s opinion, today’s decision closes the books on the major legal challenges to Act 10.
Madison, WI: As legislators and other committee members met on Thursday, July 24, to discuss drastic centralization of power in the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS), members of AFT-Wisconsin called on the committee to keep WTCS decision-making power in Wisconsin’s communities. AFT-Wisconsin President Kim Kohlhaas, a teacher in the Superior School District, urged the committee to protect a system that gives each technical college the ability to respond to local needs and provide high-quality practical education.
Like many of you, I have been anxiously awaiting the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Harris v. Quinn, a case which threatened to eliminate fundamental workers’ rights across the entire public sector. In this case, an extreme right-wing anti-union organization, the Right to Work Legal Foundation, used a dispute over a recently formed union for home health care workers in Illinois to attempt to outlaw fair share fees and even the right to exclusive union representation in the entire public sector of the United States. While the Court’s conservative majority sided with right-wing special interests in their decision, dealing a substantial blow to our sister and brother home health care workers in Illinois and elsewhere, the decision did not, as feared, impact the right to exclusive union representation in the public sector or the ability to require all public employees to pay their fair share of the cost of their representation. This, at least, is something to be grateful for.