If you don’t look at anything else, check out Matt Wisniewski’s amazing video of the Madison protest on 2/18 and 2/19:

Wisconsin “Budget Repair Bill” Protest Pt 2 from Matt Wisniewski on Vimeo.

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This piece by Education historian Diane Ravitch connects the dots between budget shortfalls, school reform efforts, and attacks on collective bargaining rights, and explains why teachers all over the country are getting fed up (and she does it on a CNN blog, of all places).

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Teachers in one Wisconsin school district are trying to explain the fight to their community in a letter being distributed at parent-teacher conferences this week:

Dear Parents of Milton School Students,

As your Milton Schools teachers, we want to share our deep concerns about Governor Walker’s Budget Repair bill—a bill that would devastate quality of education.  The Milton Education Association (MEA) has served as a teachers’ collective voice to improve professional learning and teaching conditions that improve your child’s education.  The budget repair bill eliminates this voice and does other things that would hurt your child, including the following:

  • Encouraging our best educators to leave Wisconsin.  The states bordering Wisconsin have collective bargaining rights.  Many of our best educators would leave Wisconsin so that they could teach in a school district where they still have a voice in their profession.

  • Eliminating teaching as a viable career option for many people.  The budget repair bill effectively relegates new teachers to an entry level salary (or even lower) for their entire careers.  Notwithstanding a passion for education, many new educators will be unable to enter teaching in Wisconsin under these conditions.  Wisconsin may be left with those who were unable to get a position in states that pay a professional salary to teachers.

  • Elimination of an important voice in quality of education.  Through collective bargaining, we have worked with the school district to implement improvements in education conditions.  These include adequate planning time, appropriate class size, and reducing schedule overloads to improve your child’s quality of education.  Without our voice in the process, many of these improvements will be lost.

  • Paving the way for decline in quality of education.  Currently, only 5 states do not have collective bargaining for educators and have deemed it illegal. Those states and their ranking on ACT/SAT scores are as follows. South Carolina -50th, North Carolina -49th, Georgia -48th, Texas -47th, Virginia -44th.  Is this what we want for our kids?  Currently, Wisconsin ranks #2.

We hope that you will join us in standing up for your child’s education and oppose the budget fix bill.  Please see the other side for what you can do.

Sincerely,

The Milton Education Association

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Meteor Blades from Daily Kos debunks the myth of the “greedy, overpaid public employee.

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Paul Krugman asserts that the battle in the Badger state is over power, not budgets.

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A pair of married teachers take a stab at explaining why educators need collective bargaining rights.

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In yet another sign of the times, the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Association – one of the few public unions whose bargaining rights were protected by the Governor in exchange for their endorsement – has now apparently wised up and turned on him publicly this week.

From the WLEA Executive Board’s statement to its membership:

…As employees, we all know that there is more to negotiations than just economics. Under current law, wages, hours of work and other conditions of employment are subjects of negotiation. The Budget Repair Bill won’t just require state employees to pay more for insurance. It would abolish all bargaining other than wages, and those wages would be capped at the consumer price index.

The new administration never attempted to start discussions with the WLEA Bargaining Team or any other bargaining unit. They just dropped the bomb on all of the public employee unions.

This bill carves out an exemption for “public safety workers”, but if we are honest, those exemptions will be limited. Once the draconian changes are implemented on the rest of the public employees, it’s only a matter of time until they catch the public safety workers too.

This bill has some provisions that make no sense, unless the basic intent is to bust unions. One provision makes it illegal for public employers to collect dues for labor organizations. The employer can take deductions for the United Way, or other organizations, but they are prohibited from collecting union dues.

How does that repair the budget?

Another provision requires the WERC to conduct a representation election by December 1st each year, to determine if the employees still want the union to represent them. The WERC has to bill the union for the cost of the election. Currently, if a group petitions the WERC to do an election, the WERC covers the cost. Right now, the members have the right to request an election if the majority of the members want to change or eliminate representation. Why create unnecessarily processes?

Does that help repair the budget?

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This previously-posted link to a Mother Jones piece linking the Koch brothers to Governor Walker’s union-busting efforts is worth a second look.

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Firedoglake notes that public employees in Ohio and Indiana are now also standing up in defense of their collective bargaining rights

…and also reveals that Governor Walker’s budget bill goes beyond mere Union-busting, venturing into the arena of corporate graft.

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By the way; ever heard of the Gini Coefficient?    It turns out that economic inequality in the U.S. is actually worse than in Egypt or Tunisia.  And that’s according to the CIA.

TomT will be posting under his real name here (at least part of it), in spite of the fact that this site already seems to be crammed-full of Toms. He is a suburban husband and dad doing Union work within public education in the Chicago area. Once in a great while he also posts diaries under the name “Skitters” on Daily Kos, and—during football season—he does his best to chronicle the dark history of a fairly-vicious fantasy league.

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