MacIver News Service | April 15, 2011
[Madison, Wisc…] MTI admits to organizing sick outs, according to the union’s March 4th newsletter.
“Tuesday night, MTI Faculty Representative Council met in the largest meeting in several years and made recommendation that all MTI members report to the Capitol all day on Wednesday, rather that to school,” reads the newsletter about February 15th.
The next day, on Wednesday, “Matthews again recommended that Nerad close the schools.”
Finally on Sunday, February 20th, the newsletter explains, “An all Member MTI meeting at Monona Terrace Convention Center was held for over 4 ½ hours as approximately 3,000 MTI members debated next steps. A decision was made to continue to protest on Monday, February 21, and return to school on Tuesday.”
Yet, in an email sent to Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad right before the sickouts began, MTI Executive Director John Matthews said, “what teachers are doing is based on their own conscience, for education, the children in our schools, for their own families.”
The district insisted the sickout was in violation of its collective bargaining agreement with the union.
“The Board of Education and MTI subscribe to the principle that differences of opinion between the parties should be resolved by the peaceful means available without interruption of the school program,” according to the contract. “Therefore, MTI agrees that there will not be any strikes, workstoppages or slow downs during the life of this Agreement, i.e., for the period commencing July 1, 2009 and ending June 30, 2011.”
Ed Hughes, MMSD Board of Education Director, wrote in his blog on February 19th, “I view this as prohibiting teacher work-stoppages, which is what we’ve had for the last three days. The collective bargaining agreement is still in force and, no matter what, will remain in force through the end of June. The teachers are understandably concerned about their collective bargaining rights, but to my mind their actions amounted to ignoring their obligations under the agreement that is the fruit of their exercising those rights.”
The union argued this did not cover the sickouts, because they were directed against the Governor and not the district.
Hughes explained MTI “contends that the only joint action the agreement prohibits are ones that grow out of ‘differences of opinion between the parties’ and that the union is protesting about its disagreements with the governor, not the school district.”
The district went to court on Friday, Febraury 18th, seeking a temporary injunction to force teachers back to work. Judge Maryann Sumi denied the request, siding with the union.
Hughes wrote that he ran into Lester Pines, MTI’s Legal Counsel, after the hearing.
“Lester explained that Judge Sumi had denied the temporary injunction because the District had not demonstrated a likelihood of ultimate success on the merits that the joint action amounted to an illegal strike against the district rather than a coordinated protest against the governor,” said Hughes.