At least eight local education unions lost official collective bargaining power after members failed to vote for recertification, according to preliminary results from the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission.
Teachers from the Melrose-Mindoro, La Farge and North Crawford school districts as well as support staff from Arcadia and Cochrane-Fountain City, educational assistants and food service personnel from Holmen and teacher assistants from La Crosse did not gather the 51 percent majority required by state law for recertification.
The voting period ran from Nov. 29 to Dec. 19. During that time, union members could call a toll-free number to cast a vote. Non-votes are counted against certification.
Of the eight local unions that failed to recertify, on average, only 44 percent of union members cast a vote. In all but one instance, more than 90 percent of those who did cast a vote voted in favor of recertification. In Cochrane-Fountain City, that number was 80 percent.
It’s possible that those who did not cast votes did so intentionally, knowing it would be counted as a vote against recertification, but it’s also possible that others simply forgot or didn’t know they needed to vote.
Although Wisconsin lawmakers effectively stripped public unions of their collective bargaining rights with the passage of Act 10 in 2011, educators retained the ability to negotiate base pay, said Steve Salerno, La Crosse’s associate superintendent of human resources.
“But that doesn’t mean we don’t still sit with them and confer on topics of mutual interest and treat the employees with mutual respect,” he said. “I don’t foresee us changing this practice.”
Holmen District Administrator Dale Carlson said he didn’t foresee the failure to recertify to have much of an impact on the district, emphasizing that the administration and the employees have a positive relationship and an effective communication process in place.
“We will still reference (the uncertified unions) as an employee group,” he said. “The structure perhaps has changed a bit, but we’re not concerned one bit about this.”
In La Crosse, education union leadership pushed hard to encourage all union members to vote for recertification this fall, said John Havlicek, a Spanish teacher at Central High and president of the La Crosse teachers union.
Though billed as an opportunity to give educators the choice on whether they want to join a union, Havlicek said the recertification vote requirement is part of a “political agenda” to dismantle unions.
“Ninety percent of the teachers in La Crosse want to be in the union,” he said. “And of the 10 percent that don’t join the union, they most common (reason) is they just don’t like paying the dues.”