With the loss of almost all public school bargaining rights in Wisconsin, union influence has been vastly reduced. And as a result, working in the state’s schools has changed radically. Wisconsin school boards must negotiate “total base wages” only. Every other aspect of employee work lives is established unilaterally by the school boards.
Replacing bargaining is a process known as ‘Meet & Confer’. Just as it was in Michigan before the passage of the Public Employees Relations Act in 1965, Meet & Confer allows a meeting for employee input, but all decisions are made at the sole discretion of the school board.
There is no longer tenure or seniority rights and all school employees work at-will. Wisconsin school employees have no salary schedule; insurance, retirement and leave days are optional to each school board. School district contracts establish wages but are otherwise replaced by an Employee Handbook. Handbooks control work hours; contact, break and prep times; dress codes; required after-school activities and often impose controls on the personal lives of employees.
Grievances are possible for Handbook violations only. Appeals are often allowed, but only to an Independent Hearing Officer (IHO) hired by superintendent. The IHO findings are non-binding.
Strong unions preserve better classrooms, promote quality careers and secure retirements and support the best possible learning environment for children. A weaker MEA puts all this at risk.