A conservative Republican organization is suing the teachers union and school district in Madison, Wis., claiming the two parties engaged in collective bargaining when creating a new contract, an activity that violates Gov Scott Walker’s new law that prohibits any collective bargaining on the part of public workers in the state, the Associated Press reports.
The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty alleges the Madison school board, the school district, and Madison Teachers Inc all broke the law when the parties negotiated new contracts for 2014-15 and 2015-16.
Under Wisocnsin’s new law, teachers are allowed to negotiate about salary, but the institute says in the lawsuit that teachers negotiated here over working conditions, teacher assignments, fringe benefits, tenure and union dues deductions as well.
In addition, the lawsuit charges the board and district with unlawfully spending “taxpayer funds in collectively bargaining” and say the district “will spend substantial addition(al) taxpayer funds in implementing” the contracts.
Collective bargaining fights just beginning
Many people see the fight states are waging against collective bargaining rights by public sector employees as being in its infancy.
“From the moment changes to Wisconsin’s collective bargaining law were introduced, it became clear to legislators that state politics and policy—and their own jobs—were never going to be the same,” wrote Tim Anderson for the Council of State Governments two years ago. Quoting state Sen Chris Larson, he wrote:
It’s only recently slowed down. … Right now, I feel like we’re in the second inning on this.
The dispute is tangentially related to the 10th Amendment of the Constitution, which provides state sovereignty. In 1935, the federal government passed the National Labor Relations Act, which gave the rights to strike and collectively bargain to federal employees. State and local employees weren’t covered, though, partly because of the 10th Amendment.
Another issue is that these are public employees, answerable not only to their company but to the public at large. Local and state police officers, for example, are not allowed to go on strike. They may have a dispute with their employer, which is the city, county, or state, but their services are rendered not to their employer but to members of the general public. State laws have always given consideration to this important difference between workers in the public and private sectors.