With Mary Burke on the school board and Walker’s position behind the state’s collective bargaining law, the ongoing legal battle between conservative law firm Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty and Madison Public Schools over Act 10 contracts will likely have political implications in light of the upcoming election.
The suit put in place by WILL asserts that 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 contracts between Madison Public schools and Madison Teachers Incorporated, a teachers’ union group, are illegal due to 2011 legislation which largely cut down collective bargaining rights for most public employees, even though the contracts were written well before 2011.
John Matthews, the executive director of MTI, said that at the time they were negotiating contracts, the law permitting public sector unions was considered unconstitutional, and it was only after they had negotiated these contracts that the Supreme Court declared it constitutional. WILL argued that because the contracts go against current legislation, they are illegal.
“After the school board and the unions both ratified those contracts, the Supreme Court ruled the law is constitutional. The nonsense part of the lawsuit is they’re saying we were barred from negotiating that because the law is unconstitutional but it was constitutional when we bargained that,” Matthews said.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Thursday that Madison Public Schools asked Dane County Circuit Courts to throw out the lawsuit because they believe the plaintiff put in place by WILL, conservative blogger David Blaska, is not a legitimate plaintiff because Blaska is not a direct employee of the schools. WILL argued that as a taxpayer, Blaska is fit to serve for this case.
“I think [the suit] is meant to blast Mary Burke because she’s on the Madison school board,” Matthews said.
The lawsuit came only weeks after Walker accused Burke of acting illegally when the contracts were negotiated, according to his signature on the Act 10 law. Walker has no official connection to WILL.
Walker and Burke went head to head regarding Act 10 during Friday’s gubernatorial debate. They discussed if and how they would change the legislation if elected governor.
Burke said she believed “public employees should have the right to collectively bargain,” and said she doesn’t think that gets in the way of having an “effective, efficient and accountable state government.”
Walker said “he does not see a need to expand [Act 10] one way or another,” and that the Legislature has had an overall good effect on the public sector and the economy overall.
Burke told the Journal Sentinel in an interview that she is “concerned about some of the impacts [Act 10] has had in terms of being able to attract and keep good people and have those careers, particularly in education, be ones where we can have thriving schools and therefore have thriving students.”