Teachers’ Contracts Attacked in Wisconsin

MADISON, Wisc. (CN) – A taxpayer sued the Madison, Wisc. school district, claiming its collective bargaining agreement with teachers is illegal under Wisconsin’s anti-public union laws, Acts 10 and 32.
     David Blaska, who identifies himself only as “a taxpayer whose taxes are used to fund the School District,” sued the Madison Metropolitan School District, its Board of Education, and Madison Teachers Inc., on Sept. 10 in Dane County Court.
     Acts 10 and Act 32 modified Wisconsin’s collective bargaining rules for public employees, including teachers and school staff.
     Act 10, and the manner in which Gov. Scott Walker pushed it through the Legislature, led to copycat legislation nationwide, and an unsuccessful recall campaign against Walker.
     “In the wake of its passage by the Legislature,” the complaint states, “several lawsuits were filed challenging the validity of Act 10 on constitutional or other grounds. Act 10 has been upheld in every challenge.”
     Among other things, the complaint states, the new rules prohibit collective bargaining for anything other than base wages, and protect non-members from being forced to pay dues.
     This agreement violates both things, according to the complaint.
     Blaska’s attorney Richard Eisenberg says in the lawsuit that he sent a letter to the school district before collective bargaining began, warning it of potential consequences if the labor agreement violated state law.
     “If the School District were to collectively bargain in a way that violates Act 10,” the complaint cites from the letter, “it would be exposed to litigation by taxpayers or teachers who do not wish to be bound to an unlawful agreement or to be forced to contribute to an organization that they do not support.”
     Despite the letter, the board and the union unanimously approved the collective bargaining agreements, according to the complaint. A summary of the terms was released June 3.
     “The CBAs include numerous provisions which are unlawful subjects of collective bargaining,” the complaint states.
     “The provisions that are not permissible under Act 10, as listed in the summaries, include but are not limited to provisions on working conditions, teacher assignments, fringe benefits, teacher tenure, deduction of union dues, ‘fair share’ payments, employee healthcare contributions, retiree healthcare, pension, sick leave, and pay schedules.”
     Because the agreement contains these provisions, the complaint states, it violates state law.
     “Wisconsin courts have long held that labor agreements that violate law or public policy are invalid and unenforceable,” the complaint states.
     Blaska claims that the cost of these agreements fall on taxpayers like him.
     “The Board and the School District unlawfully spent taxpayer funds in collectively bargaining the CBAs and will spend substantial addition[al] taxpayer funds in implementing the CBAs,” the complaint states.
     Plaintiff seeks a declaration that the collective bargaining agreements are unlawful and an injunction prohibiting their enforcement.
     He is represented by Richard Eisenberg with the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, of Milwaukee.

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