In Rare Move, Teachers Union in Wisconsin Becomes Decertified

In a rare move, a teachers union in Wisconsin has been de-certified and cannot negotiate with their district.

Waterford High School's teachers union had been challenging Wisconsin Employment Relations Commissions data that showed too few of its members voted to recertify in late 2013. According to Peter Davis, WERC's chief legal counsel, the union withdrew the challenge in February.

That means "the election results stand as reported," Davis said. "The matter has been resolved. The union advised they were conceding they were no longer the collective bargaining representative for the Waterford teachers."

According to Joan Heithoff, executive director for Southern Lakes United Educators union, the challenge was initially over problems with the over the phone voting process. Some teachers complained about having to call numerous times to get through, and others said the system associated them incorrectly with previous employers or Watertown schools instead of Waterford High School.

Heithoff said there was an internal investigation and it was revealed that all votes were counted appropriately. Therefore, the union withdrew the challenge.

Due to Wisconsin's Act 10 requiring unions to recertify annually, teachers Unions in Wisconsin are required to vote for recertification between November 29th and December 19th. For recertification to be granted, fifty-one percent of the union's eligible voters must vote yes.

WERC totals show that of the Waterford High School teachers union's 80 members, 40 voted, with 39 voting in favor of recertification and one voting against it. Such a vote means decertification.

A union who has been decertified is no longer able to bargain with the related school district. Act 10 limits collective bargaining for union wages only. This means that officials at Waterford High School can now set teachers wages without negotiations.

According to Lindsay Bullock and the Journal Times, Superintendent Keith Brandstetter says that wages for the current school year have not yet been set.

"We can make our own but we want to have some input," he said. "The (School) Board will probably schedule a meeting to hear what staff has to say and then make a decision" on wages.

According to Heithoff and Davis, the decertified union can continue to exist by holding meetings, collecting dues and attempting to influence employers. This means that the union can still function at the two schools this affected: Waterford High School and Waterford Graded School District. Davis also said that decertified unions have options for recertifying interested members.

A similar situation happened in 2011 at North Cape and Drought elementary schools. According to the Wisconsin Education Association Council, unions at these schools were decertified but still technically exist. North Cape Executive Assistant/Bookkeeper Carla Carroll and Drought Secretary Debbie Stephens say the union is not at all active. Students at these schools typically continue into Waterford High School.

02 19, 2014
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