Reinventing unionism in Wisconsin


by John Rosales

In Wisconsin, it has been a trying time for public sector unions like the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association (MTEA). First, anti-union Republican Gov. Scott Walker took office in January 2011. Second, his so-called “budget repair bill” was passed by the Wisconsin Legislature that March. Known as Act 10, it did more to strip collective bargaining for most public sector unions than to cut costs. Tens of thousands of protesters had packed the statehouse and adjacent square to challenge the bill to no avail.

Third, approximately 900,000 irate citizens signed petitions to force a recall election in March, only to see Walker keep his seat as governor. Although a county judge recently threw out parts of Act 10, the decision created additional uncertainty surrounding the state’s collective bargaining laws. Walker says that his administration will appeal the ruling, and the case likely will again end up in the State Supreme Court.

This monumental political fight occurred amid an economically tumultuous atmosphere where Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) suffered budget cutbacks of more than $80 million. Consequently, almost 1,000 education jobs were slashed and schools were closed leading to a dramatic increase in class sizes throughout the district.

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