Wisconsin Republicans are outgrinching Dr. Seuss’s Grinch.
Like the Grinch who swooped into Whoville to steal all the Christmas gifts, the Wisconsin Grinches will invade villages and hamlets through out the state to steal the right to organize unions during this holiday season.
On Thursday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court vacated a contempt of court ruling by a lower court. The result: for the first three weeks of December – perhaps starting as soon as the day after Thanksgiving – tens of thousands of teachers, secretaries, paraprofessionals, janitors and other public sector workers will be forced to “recertify” their unions.
The Republicans wrote the recertification requirements to make it as hard as possible to win – unions need support from 51% of all workers eligible to be in the union, not just those who vote.
“Only in Walker's Wisconsin can a union get 329 ‘yes’ votes and 14 ‘no’ votes and lose a certification election,” a veteran Wisconsin labor leader commented on a recent recertification election of an AFSCME education local.
A History of Attacks
The Republican’s attack on public sector unions in the past few years has followed a game plan similar to that of Seuss’s Grinch who left “nothing but hooks and some wire” and only a “crumb that was even too small for a mouse.”
It wasn’t enough for Gov. Scott Walker and the Koch brothers-financed legislative henchmen to outlaw Fairshare and payroll dues deduction.
It wasn’t enough that they eviscerated collective bargaining rights for any and all public sector unions (except for the few unions that endorsed Walker for governor in 2010).
Nor did the largest cuts to public education in Wisconsin history satiate the thirst of those who would replace democratically controlled public institutions with private marketplace options. This summer the legislature expanded a failed private school voucher program from Milwaukee to all corners of the state.
The Republican’s claim that the purpose of the voucher expansion was to provide a “choice” to beleaguered public school students proved to be a sham when the DPI released enrollment data. Under the new statewide program nearly 75% of the voucher recipients did not transfer from public schools, but were already enrolled in the religious schools. The essence of the program: transfer of public funds to private schools.
Universal Human Right
On November 21 the Supreme Court resuscitated one of the most toxic provisions of Act 10 – the requirement that public sectors unions annually “recertify.”
The recertification provision is unprecedented in US labor relations and is a direct attack on the universal human right to organize unions. The United Nations’ 1948 Declaration of Human Rights (Article 23) states, “Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.”
While numerous provisions of Act 10 have seriously compromised the people’s “right to form and join trade unions,” this December public sector workers will reminded of the odious aspects and consequences of the recertification provision:
- A recertification election every year.
- A 51% “yes” vote of all those eligible to be in the union, not just of those who vote. (A standard that, if applied to elected officials such as Governor Walker, would mean they are not actually elected.)
- 51%, instead of 50% + 1, the universally established definition of a “majority”
- That the unions pay for the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission to conduct the vote. For the MTEA that’s an annual cost of several thousand dollars.
- The entire process diverts time and resources of teachers and their unions away from important matters such improving teaching and learning and advocating for their students.
Fight Back Against the Grinches
Despite these toxic requirements, I’m confident that majority of union locals across the state will “recertify” this holiday season.
When Dr. Seuss’s Grinch came to Whoville and stole all the Christmas presents, the Whos did not despair. They joined together in song and demonstrated the true meaning of Christmas.
This holiday season when the Grinches of Wisconsin descend on towns and cities across the state to steal the “right to form and join unions” I believe teachers, educational assistants, secretaries and janitors will join together in songs such as “Solidarity Forever” and vote “yes” for their union.
We will stand up to the Grinches of Wisconsin.