With dues uncertain, teachers’ union begins laying off staff; Recall campaign spending estimated at $37 millionWisconsin Legislature
Wisconsin’s largest teachers’ union plans to lay off 40% of its staff. Director Dan Burkhalter of the Wisconsin Education Association Council said Monday that 42 people who work for the union had received layoff notices.
Wisconsin’s largest teachers’ union plans to lay off 40% of its staff.
Director Dan Burkhalter of the Wisconsin Education Association Council said Monday that 42 people who work for the union had received layoff notices.
He blamed the union’s action on what he called Gov. Scott Walker’s “union-busting” legislation. The law allows teachers in districts without ongoing contracts to bargain only for salaries at or below inflation. Employees no longer have to pay union dues, and most public unions must hold certification votes each year to stay in existence.
Burkhalter said WEAC is busy signing up members to stay with the group and voluntarily pay dues. He said the teachers’ union has made “steady progress in signing up members.” Union staff expects even more progress once the school year begins in a couple weeks.
Burkhalter said his union’s goal is to be a “strong and viable” organization that represents the voices of public school employees throughout the state.
Local teachers’ unions in about 275 Wisconsin districts had their contracts expire at the end of June, and they’re operating under the new state law. Contracts in about 150 other districts were extended for another year or two, and they’ll stay in effect until they expire.
Recall campaign spending estimated at $37 million
A state government watchdog group now estimates that $37 million will be spent on this summer’s Senate recall elections.
The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign said each contest will average over a $1 million more than the previous record of $3 million for a state Senate race set in 2000.
Five of last week’s six recall votes against Republican senators set new spending records. And the Democracy Campaign figures that today’s northern Wisconsin race between incumbent Jim Holperin and Republican Kim Simac will do the same. The group estimates that outside groups have spent $4.5 million on ads in that contest. Holperin and Simac reported almost a half-million in their spending last week, bringing the total for the race to over $5 million.
In today’s other recall contest, the Democracy Campaign said outside groups have spent around $2.2 million. Those candidates – Jonathan Steitz and incumbent Bob Wirch – reported spending $268,000 last week.
Mike McCabe of the Democracy Campaign said groups that are not registered with the state have spent at least as much, and maybe more, than registered groups. The recall efforts have attracted national attention as a possible gauge of union support going into next year’s presidential contest.
Hot recall summer ends today
A hot summer in Wisconsin politics ends today when voters cast ballots in the last of nine state Senate recall elections.
In the north, incumbent Democrat Jim Holperin of Conover goes against Tea Party founder Kim Simac.
Senate Democrat Bob Wirch of Kenosha County is challenged by attorney Jonathan Steitz, both from Pleasant Prairie.
Holperin and Wirch have taken lots of heat over their decisions to join the 12 other Senate Democrats in leaving the Capitol for three weeks to try to block the law that limits public union bargaining. Both incumbents said the move was necessary because majority Republicans were going too fast, and people needed time to understand the changes.
GOP senators Randy Hopper and Dan Kapanke lost their jobs last week for supporting the union law. But Democrats failed to gain the three seats they needed to win back control of the Senate after last November’s Republican sweep of the statehouse.
Still, Democrats hope to gain some bargaining power in the Senate by reducing the GOP’s majority from five seats to as few as one. Democratic leaders say it would be easier to forge compromises and make the GOP’s agenda a little more moderate.
Voter turnouts today are uncertain. They were big last week. The contest for Sheila Harsdorf’s Senate seat in northwest Wisconsin attracted more voters than last fall’s governor’s election.