September 13, 2013

At AP, Kenosha, Wis. Water Spouts Are More Important Than City’s Teachers’ Union’s Decertification

A 10:30 p.m. ET search on “Kenosha” at the national web site of the Associated Press returned one result. An unbylined story supposedly deserving of national coverage out of Kenosha, Wisconsin tells us that “Twin water spouts put on a spectacular show over Lake Michigan, near the Wisconsin shore.” They were apparently unique because “two water spouts merged into one large one, then split.” But a quoted meteorologist says that water spouts “generally occur between August and October,” i.e., though they are surely a cool sight to behold, they aren’t all that unusual.

Something else very unique happened came out of Kenosha today, but the AP treated it as just a local story. The Kenosha school system’s teachers’ union, apparently joining the majority of other such unions in the state in the wake of Governor Scott Walker’s 2011 reforms, was decertified (bolds are mine throughout this post):

The Kenosha teachers union, representing educators in Wisconsin’s third largest school district, has been decertified and cannot bargain base wages with the district.

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Under Act 10, unions are required to file for annual recertification by Aug. 30 if they want to be recognized as a bargaining unit.

Teacher contracts in Kenosha, Janesville and Milwaukee expired this summer and the unions were required to recertify. Milwaukee and Janesville filed with the state by the deadline, but Kenosha did not, according to Peter Davis, general counsel of the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission.

Christina Brey, from the Wisconsin Education Association Council, downplayed the decertification, saying it’s just another hoop for local unions to jump through.

“It seems like the majority of our affiliates in the state aren’t seeking re-ertification, so I don’t think the KEA is an outlier or unique in this,” she told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Brey said the union still exists with or without the recertification vote.

It would appear that the local’s union’s existence is tenusous at best, according to Brian Sikma at Mediatrackers (links are in original):

When the Kenosha Education Association and the Kenosha Unified School District couldn’t work together to use collective bargaining reforms in 2011 to stave off budget woes, layoff notices went out to 338 teachers. Now, teachers in Kenosha are walking away from the union that failed to help save the jobs of their fellow educators. The news was first reported Thursday by Mark Belling on his afternoon radio show on AM1130 WISN in Milwaukee.

“I have learned the third largest teachers union in the state, the Kenosha Education Association, has been decertified. Only 37 percent of the teachers in the Kenosha Unified School District voted to reauthorize the union in a recent vote,” Belling wrote in a statement posted online.

Collective bargaining reforms passed by Republicans in 2011 require unions to be recertified annually by a vote of their membership. Belling explained the situation writing, “Teachers can still voluntarily make contributions to the decertified union and it can represent individual teachers if they wish. The union, however, no longer has any official status in Kenosha schools.”

… Even though the KEA is no longer certified as a union able to bargain on behalf of teachers, the now-defunct union appears intent on pushing the Kenosha Unified School District for a salary increase for all employees. The problem they face though is two-fold. First, they no longer have the legal authority to negotiate as a labor union, and second, the wage increase they are pushing for is more costly than what the district is willing – or perhaps even able – to pay for. “The problem, quite simply, is that it is a costlier package by a significant degree – too costly for the District to accept ‘out of hand.’” wrote one union official on the union’s website.

Note that the AP report failed to note the large percentage of teachers (63%) not interested in recertifying the union. One can safely assume that these teachers won’t continue to make contributions to an entity which “no longer has any official status in Kenosha schools.” Many who supported recertifcation will also probably stop sending money to their powerless union local now that their effort has failed.

With all due respect to the wonders of nature, the fact that a large majority of teachers at Wisconsin’s third-largest school district concluded that they don’t need union representation is bigger news than splitting and merging water spouts. The fact, as AP itself relayed via Ms. Brey, that “the majority of our affiliates in the state aren’t seeking recertification” is even bigger news deserving of national notice.

If water spouts can make the national cut at AP, so should the Badger State teachers’ union decertifications. If AP reporters weren’t members of the Occupy Movement-supporting News Media Guild, maybe they would.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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