Madison Teachers Push For New Contract

[Madison, Wisc…] With a Dane County judge striking down Wisconsin’s collective bargaining law on Friday, the Madison teachers union seems determined to take advantage of the situation while it lasts.

Madison Teachers Inc’s bargaining committee is scheduled to meet on Monday afternoon, according to the union’s website. There is a general membership meeting on Wednesday.

The Associated Press reported on Monday afternoon that John Matthews, MTI’s executive director, is demanding new contract negotiations. Their current contract expires in June 2013.

MTI also sent out a cryptic text Monday morning, “#CTU meet & came to some agreements, asked for them in writing. Today Board & mayor respond w/ threats. Why not just write it down? Whats up.”

The Madison Metropolitan School District did not immediately respond to an inquiry from the MacIver News Service about potential contract negotiations.

If the union is successful in opening contract negotiations with the district, it will be pressed for time.

“The state is going to appeal and they’re going to seek a stay against any enforcement of the ruling. They’ll probably ask that from judge Colas first,” Attorney Rick Esenberg, Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty president, told MNS. “That will be either later today or first thing tomorrow morning.”

If Judge Colas doesn’t agree to a stay, the state will move on to the court of appeals. Although that route would take time, negotiations between the union and district would still have to move at breakneck speed to get a contract approved.

However, there is no indication the district wants to push a contract through and even if it did, Esenberg points out “school districts have a duty to bargain in good faith.”

Assuming that hurdle could be overcome, Esenberg poses another question.

“If they try to do that, will some taxpayer object, arguing this is only a circuit decision and it’s not binding?” he said.

If this window of opportunity does result in a new contract for Madison teachers, it could put the district in a difficult financial position. The state would not be required to provide Madison with any additional funding, with or without Act 10.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has already upheld Act 10 this past June. The argument, then, was the legislature violated process rules to pass it. Now the argument is: is it unconstitutional?

Esenberg said this is pretty much the unions’ last shot at overturning it in court.

“Ultimately you’re going to start to run into trouble with subsequent challenges,” he said. “This should pretty much exhaust it.”

A spokesman for Milwaukee Public Schools has not heard any discussions about possible contract negotiations. The school board’s next meeting is on September 27th, and collective bargaining is not on the agenda.