Thousands protest fast-tracked anti-worker legislation

RTW Tuesday

Thousands gathered at the Wisconsin Capitol yesterday to protest Republicans’ fast-tracked “right to work” (RTW) legislation. Another rally will be held at noon today.

The Senate Committee on Labor and Government Reform took testimony all day while protests continued outside the Capitol. The committee voted to pass the legislation, and cut off testimony earlier than expected, walking out on a packed room of people waiting to testify as they shouted, “let us speak!”

If passed by the legislature, the proposed RTW legislation would make it illegal to require workers in the private sector to join a union or pay union dues.

MTEA vice president Kim Schroeder said, “This bill is just another attack on the working families of Wisconsin. Unions help all workers whether they are in a union or not, by creating a standard of living in Wisconsin that is much better than in so-called ‘right to work’ states. RTW will drag wages down for all workers in Wisconsin and that is what this bill is really about – keeping more money in the pockets of the corporations and CEOs at the cost to the Wisconsin working class.”

MTEA leaders will attend the noon rally today.


Support Jobs, Not Attacks on Working Families

By Bob Peterson

RTW is a lie

Wisconsin desperately needs family-supporting jobs. Yet Governor Walker and the Republicans’ misnamed “right to work” legislation will do the opposite.

Such legislation might boost Walker’s presidential ambitions, but it will hurt all working people in Wisconsin.

In 2011 Governor Walker and the Republican majority used a budget shortfall as an excuse to attack the rights of public sector workers and the public sector.

Now they have turned their attack towards destroying the rights of private sector workers, blaming private sector unions for our economic woes.

This law is nothing more than a cover for pro-corporate interests who know that weak unions and low wages can build ever-higher profits. Rather than build prosperity, this legislation will undermine our state’s progressive tradition and quality of life.

This country has a long history with such anti-union laws. Most states with these measures are in the West or the South, such as Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, and have lower wages and a poorer quality of life.

A better name for Republican’s proposed legislation would be “race to the bottom.”

Here’s why.

So-called right-to-work states have lower wages.

Good wages and benefits are key to quality of life – both to support families and to provide a reliable tax base for education, infrastructure and public services. Yet the annual median income in right-to-work states is $6,185 less than in other states, according to 2009 U.S. Census Bureau data. What’s more, these anti-union states tend to have higher poverty rates, less access to health care and lower performing schools. In the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s well-respected “Kids Count” survey, the three worst states for children are in right-to-work states and the three best all allow workers to form strong unions. Would you rather have your child go to the University of Wisconsin or the University of Mississippi? Would you prefer to raise a family in Mississippi, where the 2013 child poverty rate was 34%, or in Wisconsin, where it was 18%?

Strong unions build a strong middle class.

During the New Deal, federal laws not only permitted but encouraged collective bargaining. After World War II, such policies built a foundation for shared prosperity and a thriving middle class. With the rise of deregulation and attacks on unionization in recent decades, including Walker’s attack on public sector unions in Wisconsin in 2011, income inequality has skyrocketed as the rich have grown richer, the poor poorer, and the middle class has shrunk. As The New York Times has editorialized, “the drive for more jobs must coincide with efforts to preserve and improve the policies, programs and institutions that have fostered shared prosperity and broad opportunity – Social Security, Medicare, public schools, progressive taxation, unions, affirmative action, regulation of financial markets and enforcement of labor laws.”

So-called right-to-work laws undermine workplace democracy and foster a freeloader mentality.

Right-to-work laws promote freeloading and are a backhanded way of de-funding unions. The union, by law, negotiates wages and benefits that all workers receive whether or not they are union members. The union, by law, represents workers in disputes that arise – whether or not they are union members. Under current

Wisconsin law, all represented employees in private sector job sites share in the cost of union representation. The proposed Republican legislation would allow workers to escape paying their fair share while still receiving all benefits. That’s not the way democracy works. Contributing to the common good is an essential component of democracy. Imagine if this freeloader scheme existed throughout society. People could refuse to pay taxes and still receive a public education, drive on our freeways and receive police and fire protection.

As we dream of a better future for our children, we should heed the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., assassinated during his campaign supporting striking sanitation workers in Memphis.

“In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, as right to work,” King warned. “It provides no rights and no works. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining. . . . We demand that this fraud be stopped.”

Governor Walker should deliver on his campaign promise to create jobs, not use false slogans and a new attack on Wisconsin working families to bolster his presidential ambitions.

Bob Peterson is president of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association.

“Walker continues to hide,” won’t talk about public education budget cuts

Students, parents and educators who gathered on Monday to protest Scott Walker’s massive cuts to public education were immediately attacked by the right wing for our choice of location – his house in Wauwatosa.

Since then, several publications have followed up with their own investigations of who owns the house, who lives there, and why the right is so focused on the location.

Esquire pointed out that Walker did not have to hide from protesters – not in 2011, and not now: “He could have met with them, or some of them, or any of them. He was their governor, too, at least in theory. Instead, Scott Walker hid in his office, hid with the deep pockets of his political puppet masters, changed the rules so he could hide behind his personal police force, hid this very week behind his aging grandparents and in the soft confines of Fox News, and is now pitching a book about how ‘Unintimidated’ he was, the essential mythology on which he is out there now running for president.”

esquire screen shot

Express Milwaukee looked into who really lives at the house on N. 68th St., and who owns it: “Walker didn’t really come out with the truth, which is that the protesters actually went to the correct home. His own home, the one he and Tonette bought in 2007, the one he shares with his parents and that state taxpayers provide with security. The right wing’s reaction is all too predictable. They, along with Walker, don’t want to discuss the subject of the protests: Walker’s terrible education budget.”

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Walker is changing the subject, as this Wisconsin State Journal headline points out:

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Walker’s a busy man these days. But the people of Wisconsin deserve to hear the truth about the $127 million he plans to cut from our public schools.

Walker refuses to acknowledge $127 million public school funding cut

Schools and Communities United released the following statement today:

“After students, parents, and educators gathered to protest severe budget cuts to public schools and universities yesterday, the governor issued a statement that failed to acknowledge his proposed $127 million cut to Wisconsin’s K-12 public schools.

We don’t know why Walker is refusing to acknowledge his giant cuts to public education, but he owes it to the people of Wisconsin to be honest about what his budget will do to our public schools.”

Hundreds visit Walker’s home with “fund our future” message

fund our future 2

Students, parents and educators braved the cold and came out by the hundreds to deliver a Presidents’ Day message to Scott Walker at his Wauwatosa home. Students from Youth Empowered in the Struggle and other children from a variety of MPS schools asked Walker to “fund our future.” The group, including dozens of MTEA members, was protesting massive budget cuts to the UW System, K-12 public education and critical services for families such as BadgerCare and SeniorCare.

“Walker is cutting $127 million from public schools statewide, and that’s $12 million for Milwaukee Public Schools alone,” said Ingrid Walker-Henry, co-chair of Schools and Communities United, the coalition that planned the rally.

“My younger siblings deserve to have the same opportunities I had,” said Rafael Diaz, a student at MPS’s Reagan High School.

Jennifer Epps-Addison, Executive Director of Wisconsin Jobs Now, one of the organizations that planned the rally, said “Governor Walker brought budget cuts to all our homes, so today we brought it to his.”

Parents and community come out to support public education

Parents, educators, and community members check in at the registration table for Saturday's Community Strategy Session

Parents, educators, and community members check in at Saturday’s Community Strategy Session

Nearly four hundred parents, educators, students and community members came together on Saturday, February 7, determined to fight public education budget cuts, school takeover legislation, and the expansion of voucher and privately run charter schools.

The community meeting took place just four days after Governor Walker released his budget proposal, which dramatically cuts K-12 public education by $127 million statewide and cuts UW system funding by $300 million.

MPS bilingual educators Jose Trejo and Ivelis Perez lead a session on how to successfully advocate for bilingual education.

MPS bilingual educators Jose Trejo and Ivelis Perez lead a session on how to advocate for bilingual education.

The event, organized by MTEA and other organizations in the Schools and Communities United coalition, was held at MATC and featured over a dozen workshops on topics such as bilingual education, community schools, advocating for students with special needs, and problems with voucher schools and privately run charter schools.

Milwaukee Rep. mandela Barnes spoke to gathering about the community schools model he endorses in contrast to handing our schools over to third party operators.

State Rep. Mandela Barnes spoke to gathering about the community schools model he endorses in contrast to handing our schools over to third party operators.

State Rep. Mandela Barnes announced that he will introduce legislation to support community schools as an alternative to current proposals that punish public schools in high poverty areas or hand them over to private companies to operate.

MTEA president Bob Peterson told the group: “Today we face one of the greatest challenges of our lifetime. We have a governor who is set on destroying the public sector to benefit the wealthy few. If it’s public, Walker wants it defunded and turned over to private operators. We know that when governors cut budgets, when companies move family sustaining jobs out of our community and when business leaders and politicians ignore the glaring racial and economic inequalities, it’s time to organize and to stand up for what is moral and just.”

Elsa Diaz-Bautista and Joanne Juhnke led a session on how to advocate for a child with special needs, and how to organize against so-called "special needs vouchers".

Elsa Diaz-Bautista and Joanne Juhnke led a session on how to advocate for a child with special needs, and how to organize against so-called “special needs vouchers.”

The coalition plans to take several steps to fight the proposed budget cuts and oppose schools takeovers and privatization, including:

  • Demonstrations opposing the budget (save the date of Feb. 16)
  • Informational meetings with concerned parents and educators at schools, organizations or places of worship (click here to request a speaker)
  • Testimony at budget hearings
  • Social media petitions and campaigns

Stay tuned to our website or Facebook page for more info. Plan to get involved, stay involved, and reach out to others in your school community so they can take action.

Click here for a flyer you can print and share with others who want to take action to support public schools.

Click here to sign our petition supporting community schools and opposing school takeovers.

Wisconsin's Overpass Light Brigade light up the night with a message in support of public schools.

Wisconsin’s Overpass Light Brigade light up the night with a message in support of public schools.

We Are Public Schools! from MTEA Union on Vimeo.

UW students, angry about budget cuts, greet Board of Regents


University of Wisconsin-Madison students welcomed UW Regents as they arrived for a meeting this morning on campus with signs opposing Governor Walker's massive cuts to public education in the state budget.

University of Wisconsin-Madison students welcomed UW Regents as they arrived for a meeting this morning on campus with signs opposing Governor Walker’s massive cuts to public education in the state budget.

“Money for public education, not for tax cuts to corporations!”

Chants rang as the UW Board of Regents walked into their meeting this morning. UW students lined the entrances of the meeting to let Regents know where they stood on Gov. Walker’s massive budget cuts to public education.


Five minutes before the meeting began, the group organizers announced they would go into the meeting to sit in silent protest with their signs held high. However, many demonstrators were not allowed into the meeting. As the number of protestors grew, the University Police shut the doors and said the room was at capacity.


This action follows two large actions at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee this week. If Gov. Walker thought he could drain hundreds of millions of dollars more from public education, he was wrong. One thing is clear: the students of Wisconsin are organizing and fighting back and they can’t close the doors on us forever.

Walker’s budget takes aim at students; hides cuts to public schools

wisconsin budget hatchet NL

Image credit: Nicolas Lampert

When the governor released his 2015-17 proposed budget yesterday, he failed to mention some critical cuts to K-12 public schools that are hidden in the budget document.

For weeks it has been said that K-12 public education funding would not be cut in this budget. But Walker’s proposed budget includes a $150 per pupil cut, which means a significant budget cut for Milwaukee Public Schools and all districts across the state in 2015-16.

In addition to the K-12 funding cut, Walker’s budget proposes:

  • A massive cut to the UW system.
  • Unlimited expansion of the statewide voucher program.
  • A state board to authorize charter schools.
  • Alternative licensure that allows any person with a bachelor’s degree and “real life experience” to pass a test and get a three-year renewable license to teach grades 6-12.
  • Elimination of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.
  • A statewide accountability system that would rate schools using A-F letter grades.
  • Different accountability tests for different schools.
  • Closing the Chapter 220 desegregation program to new students and eventually ending it.

MTEA president Bob Peterson released the following statement yesterday immediately following the governor’s budget address:

“Tonight Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker used his budget address to launch his presidential campaign, taking aim at the children and students of Wisconsin.

Walker wants to inflict massive cuts on one of the most highly acclaimed public university systems in the country, while promoting unlimited expansion of unaccountable, taxpayer-funded private voucher schools, and lowering teacher quality by gutting licensure requirements.

Walker also attacks local control by proposing a state board to authorize charter schools, when local school boards already have that ability. He proposes ending the Chapter 220 program, which was created to tackle school segregation and expand public school options for children of color in Milwaukee. Walker’s budget expands all private school options, yet he wants to end this choice for Milwaukee families.

Walker’s proposals should give the voters of this nation pause. We do not need a president who destroys a world-famous public university system while funneling hundreds of millions of dollars into unaccountable private religious schools.

This and other budget proposals demonstrate that Walker is not fit to be governor of our state, to say nothing of president of our nation.”

The best action that you can take right now to respond to the multiple injustices in this budget proposal is to make sure that parents, educators and students from your school attend the Community Strategy Session to Save Public Schools this Saturday, February 7 at 9am at MATC. Click here for more information; click here to RSVP.


Defend our public universities

By Bob Peterson and Barbara Miner

Photo credit: Michael Pecosky

Photo credit: Michael Pecosky

Click here for a printable version of this statement.

Walker has said his proposed budget cuts for the UW System wouldbe like Act 10 for the UW.” It’s a frightening analogy.

As with Act 10, Walker’s proposed cuts have nothing to do with the state budget. It’s about promoting privatization, undermining democracy, and abandoning public institutions.


Image credit: Nicolas Lampert

Image credit: Nicolas Lampert

Walker’s Cuts are a Manufactured Crisis

In 2011, Walker introduced Act 10 —all but eliminating the collective bargaining rights of public sector unions — under the guise of solving a budget shortfall. Even after union leaders agreed to increase workers’ payments to healthcare and pensions, Walker continued with Act 10. It became clear that Act 10 was an attempt to weaken democratic rights, cripple the power of unions, undermine the public sector, and increase the power of private interests.

Today, in 2015, there is another manufactured crisis. Walker is proposing $300 million in cuts to the University of Wisconsin System. The cuts would be the largest in the UW System’s history, and would cripple one of the state’s most honored public institutions.

But this is a manufactured crisis. Just one example. If Walker had accepted full federal funding for BadgerCare, the state would have saved more than $500 million over three-and-a-half years. (Figures are from an August 2014 editorial in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.)


Walker is putting his presidential ambitions ahead of what’s good for Wisconsin

Walker is proposing his 13 percent, $300 million cut in funding to the UW System as part of his presidential campaign. Other states, focused on the needs of their residents, are putting money into their public universities and colleges.

Across the country, state support for public universities is up 10 percent in the last five years, according to a survey from Illinois State University. Iowa increased state funding by 12% from 2009-10 to 2014-15. In Indiana it was 8%, and 7% in Ohio. In Wisconsin, it’s down four percent — and now Walker wants an additional 13 percent cut.

In Milwaukee, Walker’s cuts would mean $40 million in cuts in the next two years — about the amount of money it takes annually to run the College of Engineering and Applied Science, the Silber School of Public Health, the School of Information Studies and the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare. Should those programs be eliminated?


Image credit: Nicolas Lampert

Image credit: Nicolas Lampert

Walker is undermining democracy

Act 10 was part of a multi-pronged, partisan attack on democratic rights and local control, from voting rights to collective bargaining. In undermining public sector unions, Walker sought to eviscerate the most powerful defenders of the public sector.

As part of his plan for the UW System, Walker is once again undermining principles of democracy and collaboration. In addition to the funding cuts, Walker wants to eliminate the UW system as a state agency run in accordance with state law. Instead, he wants to create a so-called “public authority.” But there are several devils in the details.

First, Walker would control those appointed to the new authority. Second, Walker wants to eliminate the long-standing concept of “shared governance” at the UW System, under which the faculty, students and staff are involved in decision-making.


Image credit: Nicolas Lampert

Image credit: Nicolas Lampert

Walker’s goal: public dollars for private interests

As governor, Walker has increasingly diverted public dollars into privately controlled organizations. In education, the most disturbing example is the public funding of private voucher schools, a program that Walker expanded across the state. (Since the Milwaukee voucher program was started in 1990, more than $1.7 billion in public tax dollars has been diverted into privately run voucher schools, most of them religious schools. The voucher schools are allowed to ignore basic democratic safeguards, from constitutional guarantees of due process, to open meetings and records requirements.)

The UW System has a worldwide reputation, not only for its excellence in education, but also for its role in promoting research and the free exchange of ideas in service to the common good.

The UW System is too valuable to be sacrificed in service to a conservative ideology that undermines the democratic mission of public institutions, and that privileges privatization over the public good.


Image credit: Nicolas Lampert

Image credit: Nicolas Lampert

By Bob Peterson, president of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, and Barbara Miner, author of Lessons from the Heartland: A Turbulent Half-Century of Public Education in an Iconic American City.

Click here for a printable version of this statement.

Feb. 2, 2015


Wisconsin legislators announce school takeover zone plan for Milwaukee

Photo credit: Barbara Miner

Photo credit: Barbara Miner

Wisconsin legislators from two of the wealthiest communities in our state have released a plan to hand over dozens of Milwaukee’s public schools to private companies, create a central city zone with no corporate taxes, and implement a “right-to-work” law only in the city of Milwaukee. 

Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) released their plan  yesterday and say they will introduce legislation soon. Click here for a Journal Sentinel description of the plan and here for more information about its education details.

Republican legislators have tried on many other occasions to create legislation that will hand over dozens of public schools – particularly those in neighborhoods with high poverty and segregation – to private companies. Senate Bill 286 in early 2014 and Assembly Bill 1 (currently in the Assembly) are two recent examples. Darling has threatened for months to create a school takeover zone in Milwaukee.

MTEA president responds
MTEA president Bob Peterson said: “Darling and Kooyenga’s plan creates a school takeover zone that hands over dozens of Milwaukee’s public schools to private companies, while offering no new resources or support. The plan will eliminate corporate taxes and institute ‘right-to-work’ in the central city of Milwaukee, and it opens the door for handing over public services to private companies. This is not democracy, it’s a new form of colonialism. We will unite with others in massive resistance to this senseless attack.”

Problems with takeover zones
In takeover zones across the country, including New Orleans, parents of children with special needs have struggled to get privately run charter schools to meet their children’s learning needs. Wisconsin parents have expressed similar concerns. Bilingual educators and parents in Milwaukee oppose privatizing public schools that educate large numbers of English Language Learners, since privately run charter schools do not meet students’ language needs.

A school takeover zone in Milwaukee would affect the entire district. Public schools will close, educators will lose jobs, and families will be forced to find different schools. The superintendent and school board president oppose the idea and have come out strongly against it.

What can we do?
MTEA members and MPS parents are mobilizing for a large community strategy session on Saturday, February 7 from 9am-12:30 at MATC downtown. Participants will get an update on all school takeover legislation and will develop skills and plans to advocate for quality public schools for all children. 

Please click here to RSVP. Click here for a flyer you can share with others in English and Spanish. Childcare and lunch are provided, and Spanish interpretation is available.