Empower Wisconsin | June 10, 2020
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — The racist (their words, not ours) Madison teachers union likes to say that it stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, but a recent complaint drives home that union lives — or dues — is really all that matters to Madison Teachers Inc.
MTI filed its grievance with the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC) demanding the Madison Metropolitan School District stop distributing a two-question survey gauging teacher sentiment.
According to the Wisconsin State Journal one of the questions asks staff how they would like the district deal with as much as $9 million in additional budget cuts anticipated in the 2020-21 school year. Would staff prefer freezing compensation hikes that are in the current budget, or eliminate 92 full-time equivalent positions without touching the wage increases.
The union insists such a survey falls under prohibited workplace practices. MTI doesn’t like being cut out of the action.
“It is illegal for an employer to bypass the democratically certified bargaining representative and to attempt to bargain with MTI represented employees individually,” MTI executive director Ed Sadlowski said in a press release. He called the question about the potential of eliminating positions constitutes “intentional threats of reprisal.”
Of course, cutting 92 positions would be a big hit to MTI’s revenue stream — union dues. Madison, like every other school district out there, faces steep declines in its revenue — property taxes and state aid — thanks to the pandemic and Gov. Tony Evers’ statewide lockdown orders.
The district and the union have been sparring over proposed changes to the handbook, principally that layoffs would be based on qualifications rather than seniority.
Interim superintendent Jane Belmore in a memo to the school board wrote that the changes would prevent layoffs from overwhelmingly affecting staff of color, who are often shorter tenured, according to the newspaper.
MTI won’t have it. The union, like most labor organizations, wants to protect its longest-serving dues-paying members, not necessarily the district’s best teachers. That’s what unions do. And it has very little to do with the children they insist they’re trying to protect.
This was the same union that earlier this week issued a historical mea culpa, lowering to one knee and wailing that it had “perpetuated racism in our time, in our spaces, and in our community”
Now MTI wants to use its “white privilege” to fight against procedural changes that would spare the jobs of “staff of color.”
Maybe the union isn’t quite ready to be a “more anti-racist organization,” as it likes to describes itself.