Other Teachers’ Union Reps Steamed at MTEA, Say New Concessions Proposal That Would Help Them Would Also Aid Governor Walker

MacIver News Service | March 13, 2012 11:05 pm

Wisc Teachers’ Union Officials Lay Out Bare Knuckles Political Concerns in Letter to Colleagues

[Milwaukee] The leaders of the largest local teachers’ union in Wisconsin are seeking legislation that would allow them to make mid-contract concessions without nullifying their current contract. The MacIver News Service has learned that it is a move that has outraged the leaders of the four next largest teachers’ unions.

On Monday the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the MTEA and the Milwaukee Public School Board of Directors, along with the MPS Administration, sent a letter to state lawmakers requesting they pass legislation to create a window of time for the parties to conduct negotiations on compensation or fringe-benefit concessions without nullifying existing union contracts.

News accounts of MTEAs move upset their fellow large urban teachers union locals.

The union leadership of the Madison, Kenosha, Green Bay and Racine teachers union sent a letter to representatives of the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association on Tuesday, opposing such a measure.

Regardless of if such a move would benefit the Milwaukee Public Schools or the MTEAs own membership, the union heads insist the political damage

The MacIver News Service has obtained the following letter, dated March 13, 2012, which was addressed to Bob Peterson and Sid Hatch, respectively the President and Executive Director of MTEA:

‘Dear Brothers:

“We write to express our grave concern that MTEA has asked their legislators to introduce and work to pass legislation which would enable MTEA and the Milwaukee Public Schools to enter into an agreement in which MTEA would make economic concessions such as those enacted by Governor Walker’s WI Act 10.

‘The undersigned believe that such legislation would be detrimental to our members’ best interests: i.e. our Districts would likely push for similar legislation, given the precedent established by MTEA. Further, we believe such legislation will have an adverse impact on all Wisconsin public employees. Such legislation will enable Governor Walker to claim victory of his policy to reign [sic] in public employee wages and benefits. Because he did not adequately fund education, we are all currently suffering. Allowing Governor Walker to make such a claim just before the recall election will prove detrimental to recalling him and, therefore, will only enhance his ability to further harm all Wisconsin public employees.

“We ask that you immediately withdraw your request for this legislation.”

The letter was signed by the following union representatives from Madison, Kenosha, Green Bay and Racine:

Peggy Coyne, MTI President
John Matthews, MTI Executive Director
Mary B. Modder, KEA President
Joe Kiriski, KEA Executive Director
Toni Lardinois, GBEA President
Keith Patt, GBEA Executive Director
Pete Knotek, REA President
Jack, Bernfeld, REA Executive Director

The Journal Sentinel explained the reasoning for the move:

“Prompting the letter was word from the City of Milwaukee that Milwaukee Public Schools must contribute nearly $10 million more to the city’s pension plan because of financial market downturns. That pension is for nonclassified district employees such as educational assistants and engineers, but fulfilling the obligation means even more money could be taken from the classroom in a time of already reduced finances.

“But there’s a serious time constraint to fulfilling that rushed request before the Legislature’s general session ends Thursday. Especially since the city informed MPS of the $10 million payment in January, and the Legislature had already allowed unions and municipal employees a 90-day window from November to February to make adjustments to their contracts.

“Outside that window, the state’s new Act 10 law limits nearly all collective bargaining once union contracts expire, and the legislation signed by Gov. Scott Walker makes it impossible to alter existing agreements without nullifying them.”

This is the final week of scheduled legislative activity for lawmakers in Madison. The Assembly was expected to address MTEAs concerns Tuesday or Wednesday, with the Senate taking up the issue when it convenes on Thursday.