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Wisconsin public employees file lawsuit challenging constitutionality of law banning collective bargaining

State statute unconstitutionally violates workers’ freedom to negotiate, unlawfully creating a disfavored class of public sector employees, says a new lawsuit filed by workers.

MADISON, Wis. – Today, Wisconsin public employees filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a state law which eliminated the freedom to engage in collective bargaining for most public sector workers.

“State-employed workers, such as graduate assistants like myself, should be guaranteed the same rights as public safety workers. We contribute so much to our communities, and we deserve a voice on the job,” said Maddie Topf, a graduate assistant at University of Wisconsin Madison. “Legal action to restore collective bargaining rights to all state employees is one way to secure the livelihood of working people in Wisconsin,” said Nina Denne, a graduate assistant at University of Wisconsin-Madison. They are co-presidents of AFT-Wisconsin’s Teaching Assistants Association.


The layoffs, furloughs and higher teaching loads announced today by administration at UW – Oshkosh represent a shameful failure of our state to provide educational resources in line with what our students need and what our state needs. When we have billions of dollars in surplus and our university system receives a cut in funding to advance the ideological agenda of far-right Republicans in the legislature, that’s a political decision to strip away the resources working people across Wisconsin need to ensure they can meet their goals through higher education. We fear that other campuses will wrongly choose to solve this funding problem with further layoffs, and our members will organize to prevent that from happening.

Photo of AFT President Randi Weingarten addressing TEACH 2023

The AFT has always been a solutions-driven union, and our new campaign, launched during TEACH on July 21, proves it once again with a fresh, practical approach to strengthening public education. As AFT President Randi Weingarten pointed out during her keynote speech, the $5 million, yearlong campaign, “Real Solutions for Kids and Communities,” stands up against attacks on public schools and offers real-world solutions to build up, rather than break down, our communities.


From locals to the state fed, AFT-Wisconsin has been active in making our voices heard in the budget process.

Here are a few highlights:

Op-Ed by Higher Ed Members Neil Kraus and Jon Shelton

AFT-Wisconsin Budget Statement

Randi Weingarten at a Massachusetts high school

Summer is upon us, and parents, children and teachers are winding down from what has been an exhausting and fully operational school year—the first since the devastating pandemic. The long-lasting impact of COVID-19 has affected our students’ and families’ well-being and ignited the politics surrounding public schools. All signs point to the coming school year unfolding with the same sound and fury, and if extremist culture warriors have their way, being even more divisive and stressful.


What unions do


In AFT President Randi Weingarten’s latest New York Times  column, she describes what it is exactly that unions do. Though unions are the most popular they have been in decades, anti-union sentiment still thrives in red states and across the nation. “Several years ago, The Atlantic ran a story whose headline made even me, a labor leader, scratch my head: ‘Union Membership: Very Sexy,’” Weingarten writes in the column. “The gist was that higher wages, health benefits and job security—all associated with union membership—boost one’s chances of getting married. Belonging to a union doesn’t actually guarantee happily ever after, but it does help working people have a better life in the here and now.” Click through to read the full column.


AFT-Wisconsin COPE has endorsed the following candidates for the spring 2022 election happening on April 5, 2022.  Now is the time to get involved.  Let us know how you'd like to get more involved!


AFT-W VP of Higher Education Jon Shelton has sent a letter to Reps. David Murphy and Dianne Hesselbein opposing A.B. 413. The October 7, 2021 letter reads in part: "this bill would not only do the opposite of what it proposes to do—prevent stereotyping based on race and gender—but it would also threaten the promise of academic freedom and the pursuit of truth that has made our system of public higher education one of the best in the nation." Reps. Murphy and Hesselbein are respectively the chair and ranking delegate of the Assembly's Committee on Colleges and Universities.

Click here to read


In a September 17, 2021 letter to the Assembly Education Committee, AFT-Wisconsin President Kim Kohlhaas testified against Assembly Bill 562. "The bill would encourage parents to opt their children out of gender identity and sexual orientation programs in our public schools," she argued. "Any legislation that discourages open conversation and the inclusion and well-being of all students is dangerous."

Read the letter in full here.