Wisconsin Educators Stand Firm, Fight For Workers' Rights Goes National

As the historic protest in Madison stretched into it its sixth day, educators and public employees have succeeded in exposing the true intent behind Gov. Scott Walker’s so-called “budget” proposals: an all-out attack on the right of state workers to have a voice in their profession.

State employees have already signaled their concessions on pay and benefits, overtures that have been rebuffed by Walker.

“It’s about compromise,” Wisconsin Education Association Council President Mary Bell said. “We will meet the governor half way, but we will not be denied our right to collectively bargain.”

National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel joined Bell and WEAC on Thursday to let them know that NEA’s 3.2 million members were united behind them.

“Middle class workers and their families are not asking for special treatment,” Van Roekel said. “I know that teachers and public employees love Wisconsin and are willing to help shoulder the state’s financial burdens, but they are not willing to give up their voice.”

Support for Wisconsin workers has surged across the state, the nation and overseas. On Sunday, All-Pro cornerback Charles Woodson of the Super Bowl Champions Green Bay Packers issued a strong statement of solidarity.

“Thousands of dedicated Wisconsin public workers provide vital services for Wisconsin citizens. They are the teachers, nurses and child care workers who take care of us and our families. These hard working people are under an unprecedented attack to take away their basic rights to have a voice and collectively bargain at work. Today I am honored to join with them.”

Unfortunately, these basic rights are being targeted across the country. Educators in Ohio, Idaho, Indiana and other states are out in force, mobilizing at rallies and on Facebook to oppose similar efforts to scapegoat public employees over budget deficits.

Last Thursday, more than 5,000 teachers, firefighters, other state employees and supporters converged on Columbus, Ohio capitol to oppose Senate Bill 5, Gov. John Kasich’s attempt to strip away the state’s collective bargaining law.

Columbus teacher Philip Hayes, grandson of legendary Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes, said the union produces better educators.

“Students need their teachers to focus on them and their classrooms, and allowing the union to represent teachers allows them to do what they do best—teach.”

The pattern continues in Indiana, where Governor Mitch Daniels is also trying to take an axe to bargaining rights, one of many shoddy “reform” proposals being considered in the legislature. Hundreds of educators will be in the State House in Indianapolis on Tuesday to meet with lawmakers to discuss the negative impact the legislation will have on Indiana working families. NEA Vice-President Lily Eskelsen will also be joining Indiana State Teachers Association President Nate Schnellenberger for a joint news conference.

“All eyes are on Wisconsin educators and public workers right now, but the fight is also on in Indiana against what is surely an anti-union pattern by many governors around the country,” said Eskelsen. “Indiana’s working families can be assured that our 3.2 million members are behind them and those in other states fighting these politically-motivated bills to strip their bargaining rights away.”

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  • Julie M

    I am so proud of my colleagues in Wisconsin!

    This IS a national movement!

  • bev

    Using the word “Assault” is deceptive and immoral. The whole nation knows that gov. Walker ran on reforming education. As Obama said, elections have consequences, right?

    School is supposed to be about kids learning, not about bloated administrators and teachers “rights”. As a person who had way more bad teachers than good teachers I applaud the gov and I’m glad to see yall finally getting what you deserve.

  • Lea Sarco

    NEA, where are you? What are you organizing to help us? We need to stand up as a nation against this. What is being done to not only support Wisconsin, but all the other states? There needs to be a movement. Collect money, organize local protests, we need to stand together showing we will not stand for this with out a fight. This is not about our pension and benefits. Please, please get something going!

  • Dear NEA President Dennis Van Roekel,

    Words of support will not get the job done. I urge you to call for a National Walkout. You know this is part of an organized attack against unions and workers throughout the USA, not just Wisconsin. Please show some bold leadership; take a cue from the French and have a one day walk out this week. If not, teachers will join the air traffic controllers in the bread lines. Joe Pellegrino

  • bev

    Lol, a walkout? Omg, you guys get summers off, 2 weeks at Christmas, countless non-reality holidays off and most of you could care less about the kids. With all the proven unethical acts by nea members (bogus dr’s notes ring a bell? ) in just the last few days alone, you have the audacity to scream about YOUR rights? Disgusting!

  • John

    I agree with 100% Bev above. Get real folks!

  • Elaine

    Remember when JFK said ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country’??

    Right now states need to balance their budgets and also look out for future budgets. Collective bargaining belongs where union workers produce a manufactured product that people buy. Teachers are public workers and the tax payers are the employer. Why should the taxpayers foot the bill for your so called right to demand more of them?

    Time to get a grip.

  • Joe Gindele

    Teachers work longer than most people realize. A 2008 research study reported that full-time teachers work, on average, 55 hours per week. [1] (This includes all the after school and evening and weekend work in correcting papers at home, preparing tests, designing lesson plans, attending after school functions as well as parent meetings, etc.) If you multiply 55 hours x 38 weeks in a regular teacher’s contract, you get 2,090 hours of work. Divide the 2,090 by 40 hours per week (average workweek) and you have a typical teacher working 52.25 weeks per year! They do this in a compressed nine-months of time. It should also not be forgotten that when teachers “ . . . are compelled not to work during the three months of summer, they won’t be able to collect unemployment compensation.” [2] However, other “seasonal workers” have that right.

    [1] NEA Today (2008, September). Miscellaneous classroom concerns, 27(1), p. 28. [ED3-83]

    [2] Mattsen, John A. (2000, January 15). Big surpluses, but not enough to pay teachers decent salary. Star Tribune, p. A17. [FD3-84]

  • Joe Gindele

    Fact: A third of new teachers quit teaching after three years. One half of new teachers quit teaching after five years. Why? Is it because they have such cushy and well-paid jobs?

    Where are we going to get teachers–those with BS and Masters degrees and more– to teach our children when they are constantly abused and attacked, both in the classroom and from the general public? You better start seriously thinking about home-schooling your child or having her in classes of 60 or more. I cannot see teachers staying in the profession as their working conditions continue to deteriorate, especially with so many disruptive students who operate on a “social agenda” and not an “academic agenda.” Far too many parents don’t know how to parent or just don’t give a damn. Too many of them expect teachers to raise their kids.

    This issue about taking away the collective bargaining rights of teachers and other public employees in WI and in other states has caught the attention of many, including the few high school and college students who aspire to become a teacher. Many of them are starting to reconsider whether or not they want to be in the profession. God help us all. I see America disintegrating and I am scared to death about our survival as a country. The wrong people are being attacked. The rich and powerful must be gleeful that one worker is pitted against another.

  • CJ

    We don’t produce a manufactured product people can buy? What kind of product do you expect to buy from an uneducated America? What kind of country do you expect to be a proud citizen of if not educated? It sure won’t be a free one for very long!

    Thank you Joe, you are so right.