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Wisconsin at a Standstill
posted by: Alix | February 20, 2011, 05:08 PM   

Schools in Wisconsin are closed, Democratic legislators left the state in protest, and tens of thousands have converged at the state house. This has been the scene for the last few days in a state where Republican Governor Scott Walker has proposed legislation to close a budget shortfall and curb collective bargaining. The protests, uproar, and fallout have gained national attention and have even warranted comment from President Obama.

Walker’s bills were set to become law imminently when Democratic members of the legislature fled the state to halt an inevitable vote. Union teachers have also abandoned their posts.  Hundreds of teachers have joined the protests by calling in sick, forcing school districts—including the state's largest, Milwaukee Public Schools—to cancel classes for days on end.

Protestors have been chanting and holding signs that liken Governor Walker to Adolf Hitler and recently ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The protesters' chants of "Kill the Bill!" and "Recall Walker Now!" could be heard throughout the day and well into the night as hundreds brought sleeping bags to the state house.

Even President Obama is weighing in on the situation. In an interview with Milwaukee television station WTMJ, President Barack Obama called Walker's bill "an assault on unions." Obama failed to mention the dire financial situation in the state or the fact that the NEA was one of the largest contributors to his 2008 campaign.

Despite the groundswell of support, it seems Democrats are merely delaying the inevitable as Republicans say they have the votes to pass the bill. Unfazed by the protestors and Obama’s criticism, Governor Walker shot back in a recent interview, “We are focused on balancing our budget. It would be wise for the government and others in Washington to focus on balancing their budgets, which they are a long way off from doing."

Further, Republican leaders said they expected Wisconsin taxpayers to be pleased with the savings the bill would generate—$30 million by July and $300 million over the next two years to address a $3.6 billion budget shortfall.

While the situation in Wisconsin comes to a boil, a larger conversation has started about the scope of union influence in this country. Similar legislation is to be considered in other states, including Montana, Indiana and Ohio.  Does this mean we will see similar chaotic scenes in state houses everywhere?

The sad fact is students are suffering all over the state. Whole school systems are being shut down for these protests. There are even reports of physicians handing out doctor’s notes to teachers to account for their sick leave—is this what we want to teach our students?  Hopefully a professional resolution can be made so that politicians, teachers, and other state employees can get back to work.

For the record, AAE is adamantly against “sick outs” and strikes.  AAE is also against forced unionism, which means that teachers in Wisconsin must pay union dues as a condition of employment. In fact, in half of the states, a teacher could lose his or her job for refusing to pay union dues.  AAE believes that teachers, as college-educated professionals, can decide for themselves whether or not they want to join a union and pay exorbitant dues. Like members of other professions, teachers are capable of negotiating their own contracts if they so choose and don’t necessarily need a union to do it for them. Further, thousands of teachers do not support the liberal platform of the unions, including expanded government, higher taxes, and support for controversial social issues. The proposal in Wisconsin would allow those teachers who do not wish to be members of the teachers unions to decide for themselves if a union fits with their beliefs and their budget.

Governor Walker said today on Fox News Sunday, "If you want to have democracy, if you want to have the American way, which is allowing people to have a choice, that's exactly what we're allowing there. People see the value, they see the work, they can continue to vote to certify that union and they can continue to voluntarily have those union dues, and write the check out and give it to the union to make their case, but they shouldn't be forced to be a part of this if that's not what they want to do.”

We believe that giving teachers a choice whether or not to join the union is pro-teacher. And if some say that giving teachers that choice is anti-union, so be it.

Do you think that teachers should be forced to pay union dues?
Comment below.

Comments (6)Add Comment
Corporate CEO
written by Don, Las Vegas, February 23, 2011

Teachers should not have to be pawns in order for union bosses to line their pockets, forcing teachers to pay up to $800 annually for union dues. Unions have bankrupted America while sending good paying jobs elsewhere. More power to the teachers. God bless them.
Fox is not news
written by doug, February 21, 2011

You lose credibility when you quote Fox "news" Around here we call it the CartoonNewsNetwork
re: Just curious
written by AAE, February 21, 2011

Hello Mary,

Thank you for your question.

First, AAE has members in all 50 states.

Second, you are right that Virginia prohibits collective bargaining (and, on a side note, according to the news now has a surplus, not a deficit, and ranks well in education comparisons of states) but not all of our partner states ban it. And, in fact, we do not have an active partnership with most of the associations in the states that ban collective bargaining.

There does tend to be a higher number of non-union teachers in the right to work states, but that is because potential non-union teachers are forced to pay union dues in non-right to work states, rather than being able to make the choice. This speaks volumes about the choices teachers wish they had and how they might exercise those choices if given the opportunity.

To address your primary argument, aren't the states with the most significant budget deficits (California, New Jersey, Illinois) states with a high union representation? As for quality of schools, Florida ranks above New Jersey, Georgia ranks above California, Alabama ranks above Illinois (Education Week: 1/14/10).

Appreciate the feedback.

Just curious
written by Mary Milian, February 21, 2011

Why is it that the States that have no collective bargaining rights are the only states that you are partnered with. More importantly, those states, especially Virginia, has an out of control deficit and students score the lowest in the country. Don't you see a correlation?

No union = good teachers go elsewhere.
Stand Up for What is Fair
written by Shawn, Ohio, February 21, 2011

While I may not personally want to give up concessions (pay, pension, etc), I do not feel that teachers like me should be any different that other hard working Americans.

I personally support most of the changes proposed in our Ohio bill, especially those that get rod of "step-pay" and eliminate RiF. I do not agree with such rules that support ineffective teachers by treating them the same as highly effective ones.

Does this introduce a little more risk to our jobs, yes. However, I feel that if you are good at what you do you shouldn't be that worried. If a district was dumb enough to fire you then you won't have too much difficulty getting another job.
Forced Unionism
written by Angela, Los Angeles, February 20, 2011

should be a thing of the past. I agree with the article wholeheartedly.

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