Saturday, May 17, 2014

Issue #165 May 17, 2014- Collective Bargaining A Necessity In Our Society

Collective Bargaining, Respect
and Education. . .
There’s a lot of lip service being paid to the importance of education in modern America.  House Majority Leader Eric Cantor provided one quote in support of education when he said, "A great education is the foundation that Americans need to climb the economic ladder of success, and to build a bright future."  That type of comment is heard frequently from all sides of the political arguments as well as is common refrain in conversations across our nation.  According to this line of thinking, education provides the opportunity for individuals to improve their social and economic status, and therefore is important enough to merit close attention from those in leadership positions. 

However, there is always a "but", or some other follow up comment that provides an opportunity to attack a political opponent, or to advance an agenda.  In the case of education the statement of support is usually followed immediately by a critique of the shortcomings of our existing system.  Once again Mr. Cantor provides us with an example when he goes on to say, "For far too many children in our country, a quality education remains out of reach and kids without access to a quality of education struggle to even see any opportunity to get ahead."  This supposed concern for the children of America is used to build an argument against public education and for privately run, publically funded school systems.

Poverty and inequality, not teachers, are the drivers of deficits in...

School choice has been a divisive issue, but both chambers are moving...
U.S. News and World Report|By Allie Bidwell

In order to advance the agenda of privatization there is a need to find someone, or something to blame.  In education we find most of the blame is placed on the educators who work in classrooms, especially those in public schools.  Critics point at the Achievement Gaps, test scores that compare unfavorably with those from other nations, and complaints from political and business leaders that our students are unprepared for the competitive global job market.  Far too many people are willing to point out the shortcomings of our public schools, while solutions to the problems our public schools face.

A central idea of market-based education reform is to improve teacher quality by increasing both the risks and rewards of the job. The problem, in many places, is that teachers' jobs are becoming...

Sure, it’s mostly the courts, but charter schools and testing regimes are...
The Daily Beast

Wisconsin has become a leader in the movement to attack educators and to undermine public education.  Whether it was the QEO from the Thompson era, legislation that specifically targeted educators wages and benefits, or Act 10 that was a more sweeping attack on the public sector in general, the results are the same.  From almost any aspect, economic, social or political, education is a profession that is less than desirable.  Prospective educators must find ways to finance their education and training, but receive less money than other professions with the same educational requirements.  This translates to student loan debt that is a financial burden for many educators long after they graduate and become professional educators.  Educators are vilified and widely disrespected, especially by those in powerful positions.  Educators’ expertise is ignored in policy making, and attempts to speak out against current “reforms” are chastised as laziness, or a defense of a failed status quo.  The loss of collective bargaining rights across the state puts hard earned benefits in jeopardy and eliminates protections that allow educators to advocate for their students.
Want to make money? Don't pick these five majors.
The 2011 Wisconsin Act 10, also known as the Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill was signed into law in June of 2011. The controversial legislation primarily impacted the areas of collective bargaining, compensation, and retirement...

Public educators in Madison have been fortunate in many ways.  Because of the support of the community, the willingness of our school board and administration to extend our contracts, and the strength of our unions, MTI, AFSCME and the building trades, MMSD employees have continued to work under a collective bargaining agreement despite the passage of Act 10.  However, all is not rosy here.  The collective bargaining agreements that have been negotiated since 2011 have transferred significant power from employees to MMSD.  Wages, benefits and working conditions have been impacted by these concessions and employee stress is at extremely high levels.

This week the Madison School Board voted unanimously to approve negotiations for a new contract that would keep collective bargaining in MMSD through 2016.

Meeting in closed session Thursday night, the Madison School Board inched...|By Lee Enterprises

This is good news in some ways, but many employees are apprehensive about what negotiations will bring.  The question of what we will need to give up in order to get a contract is a specter that lurks in the back of every employee’s mind.  We know that in past negotiations MMSD administration has looked to place limits and controls on planning time, sought to have unilateral control over wages and insurance costs, and placed other restrictions or created policies that have negatively impacted educators, as well as students.  The effort to make changes in elementary planning time that was successfully fended off a couple of years ago is an excellent example.  Now we see new ideas being put forward that continue to chip away at a contract that is the product of years of struggle and compromise.

Ed Hughes says labor rules giving current teachers the first shot at...|By Lee Enterprises

While it is true that MMSD employees should recognize the reality that we currently work in, and many school district employees across the state would be ecstatic to have the contract we have (as opposed to district written and implemented handbooks), the fact remains that all employees deserve a place at the bargaining table.  MMSD employees are leading the fight to try and maintain our voice in the workplace.  We want to do what’s right for our students while at the same time making sure that employees are honored and respected.  There is hope that we will be able to negotiate in true good faith, but recent experience makes us question just how good that faith will be. 

This uneasiness is certainly justified, especially in a climate where we are seeing statistics and data used to attack our profession and our public education institutions.  The drive to quantify educational efforts is creating havoc in educational policy, and we need to continue to question the “facts” that are presented and listen to the professionals who work in our schools. 

Why do these things correlate? These 20 correlations will blow your mind. (Is this headline sensationalist enough for you to click on it yet?)

As we move forward into negotiations I am urging all members of the Madison community to pay close attention to what is unfolding.  Will we see an effort made to address the needs of students, educators and the community?  Will we see the voices of stakeholders listened to?  Will budgetary concerns and questionable data override what is truly best for those who work and learn in our schools? 

Over and over we’ve heard about the strengths of MMSD.  The community, the employees and the students have all been touted as reasons for hope as we work to address the challenges we face.  Over the past year we have seen the power of collaborative efforts between staff and administration.  Educators and administration have worked together to create a Strategic Framework, we've collaborated on task forces addressing issues like assessment and engaged in discussion about important topics in joint committees.  Projects that improve communication between educators and administrators provide a glimpse of what MMSD/MTI partnerships could look like in the future.  These efforts show just how much potential exists when educators, administration and the community join together.

This potential is only realized when there is true communication, collaboration and mutual respect between all parties.  A collective bargaining agreement negotiated in true good faith will provide one of the only examples in our state to counter the belief that educators and their unions are the enemy of quality schools and true education reform.  Despite what we are told to believe, educators aren't the enemy.  Neither are administrators or school boards.  Our enemies are the inequities that exist across all aspects of our society.  Our enemies are those who seek to divide us and create conflicts to expand their own wealth and power. 

By successfully negotiating our contracts we can show the rest of the state the power of collaboration over segregation and conflict.  We can make Madison the example of how people can resolve problems cooperatively and address important issues in positive, progressive ways. 
The Good, The Bad and
The Ugly. . .

The Good . . . Paying workers a living wage makes sense economically and socially.  Trapping workers in low wage jobs with little opportunity for advancement creates a class structure that can easily become permanent.  Frederick Douglass offered this opinion, "experience demonstrates that there may be a slavery of wages only a little less galling and crushing in its effects than chattel slavery, and that this slavery of wages must go down with the other."  The minimum wage hasn't kept up with the cost of living and therefore needs to be raised.  Having the support of business owners increases the power of the message.

When Fred DeLuca founded Subway, the minimum wage was $1.25. It's...
Think Progress

For the second time this week, a CEO of a major fast food company came...
Think Progress

The Bad . . . Actually this is a mixture of good and bad news.  This Iowa investigation into voter fraud found that in the 2012 general elections the rate of voter fraud was about .008%.  In all likelihood this rate is similar in other states as well.  The bad news about this is that the data will be ignored by many who call for voter ID and other legislation that is supposedly designed to reduce voter fraud.  In fact Mr. Schultz, Iowa Secretary of State, spoke about the value of the study and the continuing need for voter ID.  Despite the minimal fraud he said, “There are people who voted who weren’t supposed to, and this is a situation where we tried to do something about it. I think it was the right thing to do and I stand by that.”

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz's (R) two year, $250,000...
Think Progress

A federal court ruling striking down Wisconsin's voter identification law as unconstitutional has been appealed.

The Ugly . . . During the debate about Act 10 we heard many comments about the power of union money in elections and how this was a threat to American democracy.  Now, these same people are arguing in favor of allowing conservative issue groups the right to advocate and educate the public on issues of importance.  We can't have free speech for one side of an argument and not for the other, if this happens then speech isn't really free, is it?  

A federal appeals court has declared key aspects of Wisconsin's campaign...|By Lee Enterprises

Why isn't this getting the coverage it deserves?  A "leader" takes responsibility for what happens under their leadership.  Blaming recalls, blaming Obama, blaming anyone else isn't leadership.

Gov. Scott Walker's administration reported Thursday that just over 28,000 private sector jobs were created in Wisconsin last year, the lowest annual amount since Walker took office.

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