Approximately 250 people filled the McDaniels Auditorium in the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) Administration building last Thursday night to advocate for the teachers’ right to a place at the bargaining table. Thirty people signed up to speak, including Representative Melissa Sargent, Representative Dianne Hesselbein, Representative Chris Taylor, former Board member Marj Passman, and MTI president Peggy Coyne. Congressman Mark Pocan could not be present, but submitted a letter of support to begin the bargaining process.
While collective bargaining was at the heart of Thursday night’s discussions, many felt a wiser approach would be to extend the bargained 2014-2015 contract an additional year. This would ensure the matter was settled in a timely manner and it would prevent the teachers from potentially slipping back further in the event that negotiations went awry. As Kathryn Burns pointed out in her speech Thursday night, teachers have lost tremendously over the past few years under Act 10.
The security of my collective bargaining contract being extended and negotiated under duress since Act 10, and under great sacrifice on my part in salary and working conditions, it is the only thing that has kept me here. But, I do not look at the district the same way anymore. I used to trust you to care about and value your staff, but the changes you made to our contract that went above and beyond what was necessary for Act 10 seemed like an assault, like kicking someone when they were down. Now, I have nothing left to give you in exchange for collective bargaining.
The last speaker to address the crowd was Luke Gangler, who read the following resolution put forth by the MMSD Student Senate.
MMSD Student Senate Resolution to Recommend the
Extension of Employee Contracts
WHEREAS, The first legislation allowing public sector collective bargaining was signed into law in Madison, Wisconsin in 1959; and
WHEREAS, International courts and human rights organizations have since identified collective bargaining as a fundamental right of workers; and
WHEREAS, The right of school staff to collectively bargain has a direct impact on the learning environment of students; and
WHEREAS, The Wisconsin Legislature passed 2011 Wisconsin Act 10, dismantling long-held collective bargaining rights on dubious grounds; and,
WHEREAS, Judge Juan Colas’s September 2012 stay of Act 10 allows MMSD to extend employee contracts and the MMSD Board of Education has been presented with Memorandas of Understanding; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That the MMSD Student Senate recommend that the MMSD Board of Education approve extensions of employee contracts with MTI, AFSCME, and the Building Trades Council through 2015-2016; and, be it
FURTHER RESOLVED, That the MMSD Student Senate recommend that the MMSD Board of Education take additional steps to protect and expand employee rights regardless of any future legal restrictions on collective bargaining.
Thunderous applause filled the auditorium as the crowd gave Mr. Gangler and the rest of the Student Senate a well-deserved, standing ovation.
The Board then voted 6-1 to convene in closed session to discuss entering into negotiations with AFSCME, MTI, and the Building Trades Council. Board member and teacher advocate, TJ Mertz, was the nay vote, showing his own value for transparency in politics.
At about 9:45 pm, school board president, Arlene Silveira, put out the following statement:
The MMSD Board of Education voted unanimously to direct our Superintendent to commence good faith collective bargaining with all of the district’s represented units for the purpose of negotiating successor agreements for the 2015-16 school year.
This affirms our belief in collective bargaining. We look forward to sitting down at the table with our employees to negotiate agreements that provide stability for our staff and meet the needs of all of our students.
As teachers and other public employees await a decision from the Wisconsin Supreme Court, expediency in the bargaining process is essential. It remains to be seen whether or not the Madison Metropolitan School District will do the right thing and restore some of the damage highlighted by Burns and other speakers Thursday night, or once again, try to take advantage of the contentious political climate.
One thing is clear; the teachers and other MMSD employees are ready to bargain in good faith, but they are equally ready to stand up for their students and for what is right and just in the workplace.
To watch Thursday night’s testimony, please visit: https://mediaprodweb.madison.k12.wi.us/board-education-special-meeting-5152014
Email your thoughts to the MMSD Board of education at firstname.lastname@example.org