The Battle of Wisconsin: Why Teachers are Fighting Governor Walker

Dean Traylor By Dean Traylor, 25th Feb 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>News>Education

Why are teachers angry over Governor Walker's proposal? Collective Bargaining Agreement may be too important to lose.

The Battle of Wisconsin: Why Teachers are Fighting Governor Walker

The state of Wisconsin has become of lightening rod for protest during February 2011. The state capital has been under siege by thousands of peaceful – but vocal – protesters from every walk of life. Most notably, public school teachers and the state and national unions that support them have been at the forefront of this movement.

At the heart of the protest has been Republican Governor Scott Walker’s attempt to eliminate collective bargaining agreement for public employees. Walker’s assertion was that it will help save his state from going broke (despite the fact that the state had a surplus budget before Walker took office). However, others - including the teachers, police officers, fire-fighters, Democratic state senators, other government employees, and union leaders from several job sectors - see it as a move to eventually eliminate unions once and for all

Still, the proposal to remove this process for public employees has created a major firestorm among the state’s public school teachers. Much of the law targets them and their union’s right to use collective bargaining.

Collective bargaining, by all accounts, is an essential tool for the various unions throughout the country. It is a process in which employers and a representative of the employees (union) negotiate on issues pertaining to working conditions. These conditions may involve better wages, working hours, training, safety, and health benefits, to name a few.

This process has helped school teachers throughout the country improve pay and working conditions. It has been used to lower class sizes, establish tenure, extra duty pay and offer partial coverage for health benefits, and retirement plans. And, in a highly educated profession with notorious low pay (The average pay for Wisconsin teachers is around $48,000); such benefits are merely one way to attract highly-qualified teachers to work in public schools.

Removal of this agreement means that the governor has absolute control of the classroom. It may lead to budget cuts in which schools will be left understaffed or lacking educational material such as books, technologies, and other provisions. School closures, a rise in teacher-to-student ratio, and the total control over the curriculum based on ideology (rather than facts) can be a possibility. Also, it may lead to the dismissal of teachers for various reasons other than performance – as has happened countless times in recent years.

In many respects, collective bargaining agreement is similar to the type of representative government that this country is founded on. Union representative act as facilitators for employees while an employer – or someone representing the employers – converse or works out a deal that will be beneficial for both sides (This, of course, this is the ideal way for it to work).

At the time of this writing, the situation in Wisconsin has become more contentious. Fourteen Democratic state senators have fled the state to avoid a critical vote on the proposed bill. In reaction to this, Gov. Walker sent state troopers out to find them and bring them back to the state capital.

The protest has crossed state borders. It’s become a national event with people throughout the country lending their support in various ways. State capitals in Indiana and Ohio, are being picketed by protesters made up mostly of teachers. Although the proposed bill exempts fire-fighters and police officers, they have joined the teachers in the protest.

Gov. Walker has used the argument that he was elected to do the people’s will. However, this argument is proving to be weak. Gallop polls are showing that people in Wisconsin and throughout the country support the protester by 61%.

Teachers throughout the country are enraged by this. Increasingly, the rage is going beyond educators.


Collective Bargaining Agreement, Governor, Politics, Teachers, Unions, Wisconsin

Meet the author

author avatar Dean Traylor
For the last 16 years, I've been involved in the world of education. First, I was a substitute teacher, then, for the last 10 years I became a special education teacher.
Before that I wrote for various college and community newspapers. For nearly 2...(more)

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author avatar mountainside
27th Feb 2011 (#)

...It's interesting that as you mentioned the state had a surplus... until Gov. Walker provided a tax cut for the wealthy and then wanted payback from the public workers. It seems to be that all these GOP governors want to do is to break the unions to stop them from backing the Dems., it is bigger than the teachers. Look for a domino effect if they lose. Thanks for a beautifully written article.

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author avatar Clarence Schreiber
4th Nov 2011 (#)

I am not going to agree with you nor disagree with you, because all of has onion of what on here in Wisconsin. But one thing that I will say is that I respect your say in this article. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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