Sunday, September 22, 2013

WI: Teachers decertify their union

Latest blow to labor under Walker law

Teachers from one of Wisconsin’s largest unions have jumped ship -- voting overwhelmingly to abandon the group in the latest in a string of setbacks for the struggling labor movement following Gov. Scott Walker’s union overhaul two years ago.

The decision this week to disband by members of the Kenosha Education Association came after the organization was stripped of its certification and told it had lost its power to bargain for base wages with the district. The group was decertified after missing a key deadline in the annual reapplication process.

When the group might actually disband was not clear and calls to the organization were not returned.

The development is in keeping with an overall downward spiral for Wisconsin’s public worker unions. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported earlier this year that tens of thousands of teachers and other government workers have left their unions since the Walker-backed law took effect.

Known as Act 10, the set of reforms includes a provision that says unions won’t be recognized by the state unless 51 percent of all potential members support them in annual elections.

These elections have contributed to their decline.  According to Reuters, elections in 2011 and 2012 -- in which 207 school districts, 39 municipal and six state units participated -- resulted in 32 unions and their affiliates, or about 13 percent, being decertified.

However, those decertifications are on hold until the legal cases involving Act 10 are resolved in court.

Union contracts in three Wisconsin districts -- Janesville, Milwaukee and Kenosha -- were up for renewal over the summer and were required by law to file for their annual recertification by the end of August. Janesville and Milwaukee made the deadline. Kenosha did not, according to Peter Davis, general counsel of the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission.

Christina Brey, a spokeswoman from the Wisconsin Education Association Council, downplayed the re-certification in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

In Wisconsin, unions that aren’t certified are still allowed to operate but aren’t allowed to bargain for limited base-wage increases with the district. However, trying to get re-certified after falling behind a cycle or two will cost the union money. And that money will likely come from dues raised from members. Still, Brey seems to be taking the judgment in stride.

"It seems like the majority of our affiliates in the state aren't seeking re-certification, so I don't think the KEA is an outlier or unique in this," Brey told the paper, adding that certification gives the union scant power over a limited number of issues they'd like a voice in.

But Matt Patterson, labor analyst with the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute, claimed the vote was a sign that workers were turning their backs on the unions.

“The news today proves what unions have long feared -- that when workers are actually given a free and fair choice, they will often choose opt out of union membership altogether,” he said.

“The public at large — and an increasing number of union members — have become wise to the fact labor unions stifle innovation and burden governments and businesses with unsustainable costs and regulations."

So what’s this mean for the Kenosha union? For now, not a lot.

The state is still knee-deep in legal challenges to Act 10 and until all of those are decided, the rulings of the lower courts serve more as a moral blow than anything else. However, as these losses pile up, some say it’s only a matter of time before the unions lose their footing in Wisconsin.

Earlier this week, in an unrelated case, federal judge William Conley ruled that Walker’s public union restrictions are constitutional. It was the second major victory for Walker’s Act 10.

Conley’s ruling was based on a case brought by two public-worker unions from the city of Madison and Dane County. The suit, filed in 2011, claims Walker’s law steps on their constitutional right to freely assemble and express their views. They also argue that Act 10 violates their equal protection rights.

Conley ruled the recently enacted laws don’t silence employees or their unions in collective bargaining.

Act 10 was viewed by unions in Wisconsin as well as in major cities across the country as an assault on organized labor. The reforms led to massive protests in Wisconsin’s largely liberal capital city of Madison.

Walker, after taking office, also moved to dilute the power of public unions to collectively bargain, and to require public employees to make pension contributions and pay at least 12 percent of their health insurance premiums.


Ohio State University Just Acquired An Armored Assault Vehicle

Ohio State University’s public safety force has a brand new toy today – an armored fighting vehicle!  The Daily Caller reports campus public safety officers acquired the transport as free military surplus.

Campus media reps did not tell reporters the exact make or model of the vehicle, however, the image reporters took does bear an unmistakable resemblance to an MRAP.  MRAPs are Mine Resistant Ambush Protected troop transports.

They’re used by the Army and the Marine Corps to give troops cover and concealment during insertion missions and combat patrols.

They can also survive a direct hit from an Improvised Explosive Device or land mines!

Gary Lewis, a senior media rep with Ohio State says this vehicle will be a welcome addition to the university’s public safety fleet because it could be used to give officers a life-saving edge during hostage situations or a campus shooting crisis.

By the way, even though the campus public safety team now has this MRAP in its inventory, zero Ohio State or local police forces have MRAPs or any military-grade equivalent, reports The Daily Caller.


Non-Muslim teachers ‘forced to wear veil’ at British faith school

Female teachers at a state funded Muslim school have been ordered to cover their heads with Islamic scarves during school hours even if they are not Muslim, it has been claimed.

Staff at Al-Madinah School, in Derbyshire, say that they have been told to sign new contracts agreeing to wear hijabs and make girls sit at the back of classes.

The Muslim faith school, which caters for 200 students aged four to 16, also forbids the teachers from bringing in non-Halal food or wearing unacceptable jewellery, it is claimed.

Non-Asian staff have been seen removing the headwear immediately when leaving the building, but refused to reveal the extent of the school's demands.

Nick Raine, regional NUT officer, said: "We are very worried about the school and the education of the 200 children there.

"It's one thing to have a dress code which we can challenge and quite another to build it into a contract. "The school is publicly accountable so there needs to be greater transparency."

The school, which has different sites for its primary and secondary school, was set up in September 2012.

The then head teacher Andrew Cutts-Mckay, who left after less than a year in post, said it was being established so that “the timetable will be flexible with time for Islamic teaching but pupils will be able to opt out of this and there will be a chance to learn about other faiths”.

He said they would “honour all faiths” and that he envisaged a school where 50 per cent of pupils were Islamic and the other half were not.

Sue Arguile, branch secretary of Derby National Union of Teachers, said: "There are worries over practices concerning the discrimination between male and female pupils in the school, with the girls being told to sit at the back of the class regardless of whether they can see the board properly.

"This school was first launched as based on Muslim principles and not as a Muslim school.

"If the school is not sticking to the original reasons behind why it was set up, then it does call into question whether public money is being used properly and for its intended purpose."

The free school will eventually have up to 1,100 pupils, it is planned. Free schools operate in much the same way as private schools, academies outside local authority control but qualifying for government funding.

Councillor Martin Rawson, cabinet member for children and young people, who is opposed to free schools, said: "I hope that the outcome of that will be available in the near future. We are awaiting the findings before commenting further."

The school has yet to receive an inspection by Ofsted, which could reasonably be expected to happen this academic year as it is a new school. It could be brought forward in view of representations from the teaching unions and city council.

An Ofsted spokeswoman said: "As schools are only notified the afternoon before inspections begin, we would not be able to let anyone know when the school is being inspected."

Despite numerous attempts to contact the school, they have refused to comment on the claims.


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