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Local teachers unions hail judge's ruling; many school districts not yet receiving new requests to bargain

Local teachers unions hail judge's ruling; many school districts not yet receiving new requests to bargain

Local teacher union officials say they are hopeful following Monday’s ruling by a Madison judge finding state labor commissioners in contempt of court for continuing to enforce collective bargaining restrictions he deemed unconstitutional last year.

Meanwhile, some area school districts are saying it’s too soon to tell if the ruling will produce new calls for negotiations.

“We are back to the point that unions and the people they represent have equal standing,” said John Matthews, executive director of Madison Teachers Inc., one of two plaintiffs that brought a lawsuit challenging Act 10, resulting in Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colas’ 2012 decision.

The Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission had argued that decision applied just to the plaintiff unions. Colas said Monday the ruling applied statewide and the commission was purposefully ignoring it.

In Madison, teachers and the district just extended a contract through June 2015.

To the Waunakee Teachers Association, Monday’s ruling meant the “restoration” of their bargaining unit.

“From what we understand, the WTA status, even though we chose not to recertify, has been restored to what it once was: We are officially the bargaining unit for teachers of Waunakee,” said WTA president Gina Pagel, a Spanish teacher at Arboretum Elementary School in Waunakee. “We are looking forward to setting the negotiation process into motion.”

Waunakee School District superintendent Randy Guttenberg said the district is seeking legal advice to fully understand the ruling’s meaning.

The WTA executive board chose not recertify by the Aug. 30 deadline because the board believed the law was unconstitutional, Pagel said. Teachers there have been working without a contract since the end of the 2012-13 school year, she said.

The district and teachers union members had decided, before the ruling, to discuss compensation in November, Pagel said.

The Monona Grove Education Association had been planning for its November recertification vote, but after Monday’s ruling, co-president Jeremy Wallace said the unit is hopeful it will not need to hold the vote, but won’t stop planning just yet.“We are still waiting for a little more information from our legal counsel,” Wallace said.

Monona Grove School District superintendent Dan Olson said the district is unsure what, if any, implications the ruling had on future negotiations.

Contracts in the Sun Prairie School District are settled for the current school year, according to human resources director Annette Mikula, and no requests for new negotiations had been made as of Wednesday, she said.

“If a request came in, I’m sure our board would consider it,” Mikula said. “It feels like a pingpong match, and you feel like a spectator, but at least for us we are settled so we have awhile to wait.”

McFarland School District superintendent Scott Brown and Barbara Sramek of the Marshall School District said their districts also have not received requests to negotiate from its unions. Teachers in Marshall have been working without an agreement since 2012. McFarland’s contract expires in June.

Perry Hibner, spokesman for the Middleton-Cross Plains School District, said its teachers union made a request earlier this school year to extend the contract that expires in June for another year but the school board has not yet made a decision.

“The board has discussed it, and no formal decision has been made,” he said. “I don’t know if (Monday’s) ruling will change anything.”

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