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WI teachers take fight for Walker’s collective bargaining law to court

By   /   February 7, 2013  /   36 Comments

By M.D. Kittle |Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON – Kristi Lacroix says she has been laughed at, screamed at and spit on – all because of her vocal support of Wisconsin’s controversial limits on collective bargaining and her vehement disdain of public employee unions.

The veteran English teacher at Lakeview Technology Academy, a public choice school in the Kenosha United School District, still, against her will, pays $108 every month, her Fair Share  payer fee of union dues to the Kenosha Education Association.

This despite the reforms of Act 10, the Gov. Scott Walker-led law that gutted collective bargaining privileges for most unionized public workers in the state. The constitutionally disputed act allows teachers like Lacroix to opt out of union membership and their dues.

TEACHERS REBEL: Kenosha educator Kristi Lacroix takes her Act 10 support to court in continuing her fight against compulsory union membership.

The district and the union, until the end of June, are operating under a 2011-13 contract ratified before the implementation of the law. Its requirements that teachers contribute to their taxpayer-funded pensions and pay more for their health insurance aren’t in force in Kenosha until July 1.

Lacroix says KEA officials have told her that 98.8 percent of her dues go to the cost of collective bargaining and administrative expenses, as is intended under Fair Share laws. She believes that’s a lie.

“Collective bargaining happens once every two years for about five days,” she said Thursday afternoon in a conversation with Wisconsin Reporter on her cell phone and, Lacroix said, off school grounds. “My dues paid for the election of Barack Obama and all the nonsense that happened in Madison.

“The union has one goal in mind: to maintain membership so the money flows in.”

Lacroix has taken her support of the new restrictions on collective bargaining to court, joining at least two other Wisconsin educators filing friend of the court briefs in Dane County Circuit Court in support of the law. In September, Dane County Judge Juan Colas declared key provisions of Act 10 null and void, arguing the law violates the state and U.S. constitutions. The lawsuit was brought by the Madison teachers union.

The state has appealed.

In their brief, the teachers argue the Wisconsin Court of Appeals should overturn the lower court’s decision. The teachers’ arguments in part stand on the ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, a three-judge panel that upheld all of Act 10.

The National Right to Work Foundation, a nonprofit legal defense organization fighting against compulsory union membership, is assisting the educators’ legal efforts. So is the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, a nonprofit organization committed to the same cause.

“No worker should be forced to pay union dues just to get or keep a job,” Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation, said in a press release. Of course, the foundation, as its name would imply, is pushing for right-to-work laws in Wisconsin, as it did recently and successfully in Michigan.

The brief, prepared by the right-to-work organizations, relies on constitutional precedent in cases upholding Indiana right-to-work laws.

Joseph Kiriaki, executive director of the 2,200-member Kenosha Education Association, said the union clearly disagrees with Lacroix’s contentions, particularly the teacher’s assertion that public unions have taken their case to labor-friendly court districts, like Dane County.

“I understand when you’re in a weak position to make an argument or defense you probably say something so shallow,” he said.

SCOTT WALKER: The Wisconsin governor has support among some teachers for his controversial limits on collective bargaining. Walker speaks with the Associated Press in his office in November. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Kiriaki said the split court rulings at the state and federal level have left school districts and educators confused and contract negotiations in question.

“I’d say it’s confusing and frustrating,” the union chief said.

The union believes there’s a litany of evidence to argue that Colas’ ruling extends beyond Dane County, including the state attorney general’s arguments concerning the statewide economic impacts of Act 10.

The school district, however, has moved ahead and approved its Act 10-based handbook, ready to roll out July 1.

“We’ve been following the advice of our legal counsel, who says (the ruling) simply (impacts) Dane County, that it does not affect anyone outside the county, so we are moving forward with the handbook,” said Tanya Ruder, spokeswoman for the Kenosha Unified School District.

Based on current state aid models, Kenosha’s school district, like many others around the state, stands to realize significant savings under Act 10.

As of July, the district’s 1,500 teachers will contribute 6.65 percent to their pensions. Today they pay nothing. And just like the other employees in the district, unionized teachers will have to pay a minimum of 12 percent toward their health insurance premiums. Currently, they pay a “minimal” annual fee of $373 for single coverage, $853 for a family.

Any savings from Act 10 are subject to the state budget and the status of state aid allocations. Last session, Walker’s budget cut deeply into state aid.

For now, Lacroix welcomes July 1,when she says she will be free of the union. But she said her fight is far from over.

“I’m not going to stop fighting,” she said. “Teachers think we’re saying you can’t have unions. No one said that. What we’re saying is you can’t force people to belong to unions and put a stranglehold on districts.”

Contact Matt Kittle at mkittle@wisconsinreporter.com.

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M.D. Kittle

  • http://www.facebook.com/michael.zantow Michael Zantow

    Why are the Unions so afraid of strictly voluntary membership?

  • http://www.facebook.com/kristi.lacroix Kristi Lacroix

    Well, Mr. Kiriaki, please tell me that YOU are not more concerned with keeping union power and money. Really, I would love to hear your argument stating that you are not scared to death about losing your government mandated gravy-train. And you have the nerve to call me “shallow”? Name-calling is not going to work as I don’t fall for Alynski tactics. You want to debate, start by being honest about the union stands for. – Kristi Lacroix

  • http://www.facebook.com/kristi.lacroix Kristi Lacroix

    Amen, Michael…Amen.

  • http://www.facebook.com/matt.wynns.7 Matt Wynns

    Day in day out..The one person you should listen to is the one you ignore the most.
    Kristi loves kids. She is a great teacher.
    This is not about you, Sir…It is two elections past time you figure that out.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1072159285 Anna M. Peck Herrera

    Good for you Kristi!!! You clearly articulated at least two reasons why you don’t want to be forced to join the educators union. The union executive director, Joseph Kiriaki, couldn’t even define what portion of your argument was weak. It’s abundantly clear where the weak arguments are and they are squarely on the shoulders of the union. Looks like ACT 10, once enacted in Kenosha is going to be a win-win for the Educators and the tax payers. But don’t worry Mr. Kiriaki, if the union is as great as you claim it is, you have no worries. At least the educators and taxpayers of the District will no longer be held hostage by your union.

  • balletmom

    The unions are fighting for relevancy and can see the writing on the wall. Nationally, their numbers are dwindling when workers are given true choice. They never offered a marketable product to their “members” and their sham has been exposed for everyone to see. Good riddance.

  • http://www.facebook.com/innis1 Roy Innis

    Mr Kiriaki is nothing more than a Hoffa wanna-be that is concerned that his gravy train money is going to dry up. Wise up sir, the people of this state are done with your b.s. thug tatctics!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003526384930 Chet Field

    I literally laughed out loud at Kiriaki’s comments about a “weak position” and “saying something shallow”….as he very astutely totally avoided addressing the question asked. Talk about weak and shallow! Standard operating procedure for the left: accuse your enemy of what you are guilty of.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1526982381 Gail Mueller

    I am so proud of you standing your ground. All it is is a choice, instead of being forced. I agree with you. And why shouldn’t the teachers pay their fair share? I don’t know any unions who don’t and my husband works for MCTS, he has to pay his fair share………..What makes them so different? Also, I was in a union twice. One was a waste and money was spend unwisely and then, there was one I can’t say anything bad about, because they actually defended me justly. I see both sides of the fence, but it should be a choice.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lin.l.hochstetter Lin L Hochstetter

    Congratulations for taking a stand, Teacher Lacroix!! There are many of us who support you in this!! Keep up the fight!

  • Jack Lohman

    I am not a Walker fan and did not vote for him. But he is not 100% wrong in trying to tame taxpayer costs. I hope he doesn’t go stupid, though his blind support of mining is not a good sign.

  • Scott

    Lacroix is doing the right thing. I support her 110%!

  • Guest

    My comment isn’t regarding the union business. My comment is about these teachers not having to put in towards their pension like everyone else in the nation does that has a pension fund available…many do not have jobs that have such benefits. I am appalled that these teachers are getting a public funded free pension, they should have to invest in themselves like anyone else would have to at their jobs with their 401K’s or whatever plan. Also, people at most other jobs have to pain into their insurance, we don’t get it free. I really don’t care about their union problems one way or another. What I am annoyed with is that the teacher thinks she she’s better than the rest of us lowly workers and shouldn’t have to pay any of her own money into her own retirement pension…that’s crap…and an insult to every other hard working person that does pay in.

  • Tom Berthold

    Hey Jack…if you would read non partisan, non biased coverage of the mining bill & mining safety today, you would surprisingly discover to your amazement….”Wait a minute…it looks like I’ve been deceived all this time by people like WEAC, AFSCME, Kiriaki et al”

  • Tom Berthold

    I and many others stand with you as we did Walker. You are not wrong in this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/linda.l.wilms Linda Lukas Wilms

    I support you, Kristi, all the way! Union power is all they are concerned with– not the children. I applaud your bravery!!!!

  • Mike

    I don’t believe you have actually read the article; Kristi is fighting
    to keep ACT 10 so that teachers DO start paying into benefits. She wants
    to pay her share. Kristi is trying to give relief to the taxpayers and
    it is the union who wants to maintain their strangle-hold on districts
    and bleed them dry. If you are sick of teachers not having to pay
    anything, put the blame on the group that extorted the contracts for so
    many years: The union!

  • kristi Lacroix

    Yeah, get the unions out and watch our jobs go to
    crap! Apparently you don’t know what it is like to lose a union by
    members not helping keep whatever shred they can of a union. I bet that you
    will wish some day that you had the union to fight for you when a student
    claims that you did something you didn’t do and you are paying healthy legal
    fees. For the record we do pay our fair share. Those benefits were considered
    to be a part of our wages because the reality is, teachers don’t make squat for
    the amount of education they have to pay for. It seems that it’s all of the
    under educated people who are against teachers and apparently don’t understand what they have done to education in our state. I guess they will keep making our kids even dumber!

  • kristi Lacroix

    Hi, I am Chet Field and I am a total republican A
    hole. I am un-educated myself, therefore I work for the RIGHT. I love to hurt
    children by stripping them of a good education by beating down their teachers,
    and got picked on when I was a child. So therefore, I am going to try and hurt
    everyone who works hard to make our children better simply because I am jealous
    that I didn’t get an education, which granted me to make better money and have better
    benefits. I love to complain that everyone else has it better than me! I can
    say that my leader Scott Walker has done wonders for my state! We are at the
    bottom of the barrel for jobs in the country, we hacked down all hope of our
    children to be educated, my leader has so-far “beat the heat” in a criminal investigation,
    and now am realizing that I totally screwed every person in this state. I feel
    great! I am Chet Field and every other snake in the grass Republican who
    comments on this site. Will another republican please pat me on the back?

  • Jack Lohman

    Tom, I admit that I don’t know sh*t about mining. But I nonetheless prefer politicians at the state and federal levels who are not getting a piece of the action for the laws they pass. As a (retired) business owner, I wouldn’t allow such a conflict of interest in my company. We (smart???) voters should demand the same corruption-free government.

  • http://www.facebook.com/stephen.lacroix Stephen Lacroix

    Please use your real name, or if you need an anonymous one, don’t pick your enemy’s name. It’s just rude and it insults your integrity.
    Sincerely, Stephen Lacroix – Kristi’s husband

  • Mike

    People, Please flag this fake post. This coward is using Kristi’s name

  • Mike

    ^^PLEASE flag this post as fake.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1072159285 Anna M. Peck Herrera

    Precisely what Kristi is fighting for…Teachers should have to pay their fair share of all benefits and should have CHOICE to be in a union or not. This saves the taxpayers money and gives Educators a choice.

  • http://www.facebook.com/stephen.lacroix Stephen Lacroix

    Again, using a name that is precisely not you is gutless. I understand Internet scams, and using less specific names, but using the name of the person you are trying to slander makes me embarrassed for you.
    –Stephen Lacroix

  • http://www.facebook.com/kari.willoughby.3 Kari Willoughby

    Go Kristi!! I was a teacher in both the public and private shools and I agree! I wanted no part of the union and as an educator and a parent I am tired of the union influencing curriculum decisions and lowering the standard for teachers by keeping in bad teachers and not recognizing good ones.I was mad that they could mandate taking my dues to support a political agenda I strongly disagreed with! I have heard of other teachers who were treated poorly for using their right to free speech and disagreeing with the union. The teachers who are not for the unions need to speak out collaboratively and those of us in the community need to stand behind you! Don’t let the union quiet your voice for you speak for many of us!!!! KW

  • http://www.facebook.com/innis1 Roy Innis

    You care to show some type of proof of your allegations against Govenor Walker “getting a piece of the action” as you put it? Or are you just going to repeat some other b.s. hyperbole that some got from a left wing, biased source? Come on Mr Lohman, where is your proof? Or are you just going to defame/slander the Govenor because you don’t like him.

  • http://www.facebook.com/innis1 Roy Innis

    You are a gutless flippin coward! Posting as Kristi is knot only childish, it is completely assinine! Grow up coward!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thomas-Paine/528029094 Thomas Paine

    Yikes!! $108 a month? Unbelieveable!!!

  • Jack Lohman
  • Jack Lohman

    And incidentally, Roy, 1750 contributions totaling $905,249 JUST from “Natural Resource” companies alone, to Walker alone. Does it need further explanation?

  • http://www.facebook.com/garry.lee.589 Garry Lee

    Not surprising that the union democratic goons would scream vile remarks and spit on people who disagree with them. Odd, that they criticise conservatives for being “mean spirited” when they themselves ingage in behavior of such a disgusting nature. I’d bet some of these troglodytes have the “coexist” stickers on their bumpers…..

  • http://www.facebook.com/char.stevenson.3 Char Stevenson

    Well, Jack, I see you’re still at it. I thought this was about Kristi Lacroix and the teacher’s union but you’ve managed to make it a diatribe against Scott Walker. Congratulations.

    You know what? I don’t give a rat’s behind if Scott Walker may get a “piece of the action” although I suppose he should be, like Caesar’s wife, “above reproach”. This state needs that mine so read an unbiased opinion and stop flaming topics that you have no opinion on just for an excuse to put your anti-Republican Democrat flamethrower to work.

    You and your Democrat pals have done and are still doing enough damage to this state. The question before the4 house is: will this mine bring jobs to this state? The answer is: Yes. That should be the end of the discussion.

    I find it exceedingly strange that you jump all over Scott Walker when I haven’t seen you in an uproar about Barack Obama taking campaign funds from those who are building various scam companies for “green energy”, wherein he gives them all kinds of our (taxpayers) money to keep their fake companies running for a short time before they go out of business and declare bankruptcy.

    Here’s a list of those either bankrupt or faltering:

    Evergreen Solar ($25 million)*

    SpectraWatt ($500,000)*

    Solyndra ($535 million)*

    Beacon Power ($43 million)*

    Nevada Geothermal ($98.5 million)

    SunPower ($1.2 billion)

    First Solar ($1.46 billion)

    Babcock and Brown ($178 million)

    EnerDel’s subsidiary Ener1 ($118.5 million)*

    Amonix ($5.9 million)

    Fisker Automotive ($529 million)

    Abound Solar ($400 million)*

    A123 Systems ($279 million)*

    Willard and Kelsey Solar Group ($700,981)*

    Johnson Controls ($299 million)

    Brightsource ($1.6 billion)

    ECOtality ($126.2 million)

    Raser Technologies ($33 million)*

    Energy Conversion Devices ($13.3 million)*

    Mountain Plaza, Inc. ($2 million)*

    Olsen’s Crop Service and Olsen’s Mills Acquisition Company ($10 million)*

    Range Fuels ($80 million)*

    Thompson River Power ($6.5 million)*

    Stirling Energy Systems ($7 million)*

    Azure Dynamics ($5.4 million)*

    GreenVolts ($500,000)

    Vestas ($50 million)

    LG Chem’s subsidiary Compact Power ($151 million)

    Nordic Windpower ($16 million)*

    Navistar ($39 million)

    Satcon ($3 million)*

    Konarka Technologies Inc. ($20 million)*

    Mascoma Corp. ($100 million)

    *Denotes companies that have filed for bankruptcy.

    Kristi, sorry to take up so much space on this website when it was a good article about you, but I think it behooves everyone to know these things, just like Jack thinks everyone should know that he’s a Democrat and always fights for Dems and against Republicans.

    Thank you for your time.

    Jack, add up that money and I’ll bet it will make anything Scott Walker would possibly make look like chickenfeed. Also, [‘d be willing to wager that it’s all lies anyhow.

  • Jack Lohman

    I see Char. Though I voted for Romney, McCain, Bush and Bush, but refuse to blindly accept Walker’s corruption, I must be a Democrat??? Interesting how you righties think. And for the record I support impeaching Obama and agree with Kristie’s efforts, but I still do not want poisons in MY well. And I do NOT support Walker’s getting a piece of the action.

  • DanL60

    I always believe lying Demorats, especially when they quote themselves as sources…

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_H5OB2J3JFZFBNWJZY7HT4N6J6Y Thack

    When unions were strong, they were the counter to the will of the big banks that told business how it had to act in order to get capital. When banks asked business to do things that hurt workers and communities, the unions stood against them and kept some power for the people and workers. That ended with republicans. The GOP blamed unions for the loss of jobs but those jobs went to China anyway.

    Cons are killing our nation. It’s time to stop them before they finish the job.