Wisconsin Faculty Union May Merge With K-12 Union
Teacher union officials continue to talk about a merger between the National Education Association (NEA) and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) unions because of the decline in membership after Act 10, which gave teachers Right to Work privileges and severely circumscribed the limits of monopoly bargaining. Check out the story in Inside Higher Ed.
Wisconsin’s two major education unions are planning to merge, in light of declining memberships following 2011 anti-union legislation, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Under the plan, the American Federation of Teachers-Wisconsin, which includes faculty at public, postsecondary institutions, would join with the National Education Association-affiliated Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state’s largest K-12 teachers union. The new union would be called Wisconsin Together, tentatively starting in September. A vote on the merger is slated for April.
Following Act 10, which made union membership and dues-paying voluntary, the K-12 union has lost about one-third of its members, according to the report. The higher education union has about 6,500 members, down from a peak of 16,000. Kim Kohlhaas, AFT-Wisconsin president, said the new structure would allow the union through pooled resources to focus on professional development and advocacy for public education – not just faculty working conditions. “I think Act 10 was a huge eye-opener for us,” Kohlhaas told the Journal Sentinel. “I think historically even the union got caught up in [collective bargaining], and it used to be a lot of contract organization. This allows us an opportunity to focus on that completely differently.”