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On one-year anniversary, Pocan and Risser call for reversal of anti-collective bargaining law

Posted: 3/8/2012 4:58:44 PM

On the eve of the one-year milestone of the signing of Act 10, retired Madison teacher Sara Bringman tells a crowd that collective bargaining agreements provide workplace stability so educators can focus on what they do best – teach children. Bringman was on hand to represent the more than 5,000 members of the local teachers’ union, Madison Teachers Inc.

On the one-year anniversary of Governor Walker’s signing of Act 10, which undermined more than 50 years of labor peace in Wisconsin, State Representative Mark Pocan and Senator Fred Risser are calling for passage of the Collective Bargaining Restoration Act.

The Collective Bargaining Restoration Act (Assembly Bill 338/Senate Bill 233) would repeal the anti-union provisions of Wisconsin Act 10, which essentially eliminated the ability of public employees to negotiate working conditions and other key topics with their employers. Risser, who was a legislator when Wisconsin’s collective bargaining law was established more than 50 years ago, said Wisconsin must return to its foundation of fairness and collaboration. “Governor Walker and the Republican-controlled legislature undid in five weeks what had worked for Wisconsin for more than 50 years,” he said.

The authors believe this bill would be an important step in healing Wisconsin’s political divide and again give public employees – such as teachers – the ability to again have a respected voice at the table when it comes to decisions that impact their students and schools. Sara Bringman, a retired Madison teacher who spent more than 30 years in the classroom, said it comes down to the ability to give-and-take with the best interests of children at heart.

“A collective bargaining agreement allowed me to concentrate on my students,” said Bringman, who noted that she has two children who are currently teachers in the Madison Metropolitan School District and members of Madison Teachers Inc. Bringman said the loss of voice creates a huge void in schools, and noted that the lowest-paid educators - education support professionals such as aides, food service workers, bus drivers and custodians - are especially struggling to make ends meet under Act 10. “As I go across schools to volunteer I am listening to educators with a loss of morale,” Bringman said. “Teachers and other school employees need to know they are valued, so they can concentrate on the education of our children.”

Sheila Ellis, an employee with the state Department of Health Services, said Walker’s attack was a direct hit on the people who have dedicated their lives to helping others. “Governor Walker completely dismissed and disrespected us as workers,” she said.

Dave Boetcher, of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), said private sector unions are still standing strong alongside public workers – because there’s no doubt about what the future holds under Governor Walker. “We know Governor Walker is creating a national model of how to break unions – whether private or public sector,” he said.

With the legislative session nearing an end and Republicans in control, it is unlikely the bill will get very far, but Representative Pocan said he’s committed to doing everything he can to make it a reality. “We are going to change this law,” he said. “It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when.”

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