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Education labor group: We have an another way

By and   /   July 29, 2013  /   News  /   9 Comments

AP photo

THAT WAS THEN: It was 2011 when Chip Brown, a board member with the Wisconsin Education Association Council, participated in protests at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison. Now, a new labor group says they have an alternative for public school teachers.


By Kirsten Adshead and Ryan Ekvall  | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON — An organization billing itself as an alternative to teachers unions is trying to make headway in Wisconsin, and a familiar face is leading the push.

This time around, Kristi Lacroix is happy to be making the news.

The former Lakeview Technology Academy teacher was fiercely ridiculed when, during the height of the Recall Scott Walker effort, Lacroix appeared in an ad praising the governor and his controversial collective bargaining reforms.

But about that same time, frustrated with union representation, she began researching alternatives.

LACROIX: Post Act 10,Kenosha educator Kristi Lacroix wants to give teachers an alternative to union representation.

Lacroix left the classroom in June to take a job as membership director for the Wisconsin branch of the American Association of Educators, which provides liability insurance and professional resources for educators, without collective bargaining and without political lobbying.

“We’re not another union,” she said. “We’re an alternative to the union.”

AAE’s membership in Wisconsin is paltry compared to the teachers unions, even post Act 10.

AAE received a grant this year to increase the state’s membership.

Lacroix said membership is “growing,” but started off at less than 300.

In contrast, while membership in the state’s largest teachers union, the Wisconsin Education Association Council, has dropped significantly, it’s likely still in the tens of thousands, based on what WEAC President Mary Bell has said in media reports.

WEAC is affiliated with the National Education Association.

Act 10 bans unions from automatically collecting dues.

And as union membership drops, AAE sees Wisconsin ripe with opportunity, Lacroix said.

“Is the NEA maybe upset that we’re out here and offering service to teachers that is definitely at a lower cost — because, again, we’re not spending money on partisan politics, does that make them upset? Maybe it does,” she said.

The NEA did not respond to a request for an interview from Wisconsin Reporter.

But it’s clear there’s no love lost between the two organizations.

The website of NEA’s Iowa affiliate says, “The goal of AAE is to weaken the membership strength of NEA and its state and local affiliates, thus reducing the Association’s political power and making it easier to privatize public education.”

The website adds, “We (the teachers union members) have a strong, collective voice and the clout to make positive changes and improvements in public education. Additionally, NEA member benefits programs are designed to save members money and provide superior service on many products. AAE and its affiliates have no collective voice and no power.”

Teachers aren’t the only public employees looking for new options in post Act 10 Wisconsin.

Two weeks ago, state corrections officers voted to disband from the Wisconsin State Employees Union for the greener pastures of the Wisconsin Association for Correctional Law Enforcement.

The WACLE now represents close to 5,900 state employees. WACLE cut dues in half from $36 a month under WSEU to about $18 a month.

WACLE interim president Brian Cunningham previously chastised WSEU-AFSME for spending too much money filling lawmaker’s campaign coffers and not enough representing its members. “In the post-Act 10 world, AFSCME has been nowhere to be seen,” Cunningham said.

“They’ve lost every single thing they’ve thrown their hat in against Scott Walker,” Cunningham said in a YouTube response to an AFSCME campaign flier asking its members not to switch unions. “We paid them to be prepared and they weren’t prepared. Where’s their political clout? They don’t have any.”

After the election, Cunningham told Wisconsin Reporter the WACLE would better represent corrections officers

“They don’t want to be challenged, they don’t want to have the rest of their units certify,” Cunningham said. “They want to continue to collect money without having to do anything. Certification is a lot of work.”

Where corrections officers voted to form a new union, the Wisconsin Professional Police Association went to court and prevailed for members in two counties, resulting in the reinstatement of collective bargaining for jailers in Marquette and Douglas counties.

In 2012, Marquette County Circuit Court Judge Richard Wright ruled the county’s jailers and dispatchers are public safety employees, and therefore Act 10 collective bargaining reforms don’t apply to those employees.

“From a broad perspective, this is particularly good news for our protective status members who are confronting employers that are trying to apply to them the limited bargaining laws for non-public safety employees,” WPPA president Jim Palmer wrote in a newsletter to members.

The WPPA used the Marquette County decision, in part, to challenge the WERC’s conclusion that subjected Douglas County jailers to the reforms in Act 10.

A Dane County circuit court judge ruled otherwise, a decision that was upheld last week in a state appeals court.

For a group of employees to have “protective occupation participant” status, the county has to certify to the state that more than half of employee’s job duties are primarily law enforcement related.

Palmer said the ruling will only apply to jailers in a handful of counties.


Ryan formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.

  • Anne D.

    Although, I believe in education reform and options for families of children not satisfied with the opportunities in the public schools, this was still a political move for Gov. Walker. Police and firefighters support Republican candidates and use union dues to support them. Maybe Gov. Walker should pass legislation prohibiting the use of union dues in any form of politics now and in the future. Otherwise, the playing field is not level. I continue to support a more Libertarian candidate. The group associated with Todd Welch looks promising and is providing a healthy alternative to the Tea Party Groups.

  • Common Sense 101

    Ya well, you get what you pay for.

  • intewedm

    When you see the teachers acting like idiots, you should be very concerned that you are turning your kids over to them for indoctrination!

  • kenvandoren

    Not always. It is obvious that in the public sector, we often get far less than we pay for.

  • kenvandoren

    “The group associated with Todd Welch… That would be WI Campaign for Liberty

  • scanman

    Which, in the case of the teachers union, is …… nothing!

  • Sarah F.

    Thank God for AAE. This is organization is truly the answer for Wisconsin. I was happy to join as a classroom teacher and am encouraging my colleagues. WI teachers are sick of being political pawns. We need choice!

    BTW- this article isn’t exactly objective. They barely did any research and quote another NEA affiliate about AAE? Come on.

  • Inquisitive

    Interesting that there was no mention of what individual or organization provided the AAE grant money.

  • ConLawyer

    The website of NEA’s Iowa affiliate says, “The goal of AAE is to weaken the membership strength of NEA and its state and local affiliates, thus reducing the Association’s political power and making it easier to privatize public education.” And this is negative in what way? The NEA exists to serve the desires of its dues-paying membership, along with advocating for every left-wing political movement extant. The actual, productive education of children is NOT among its priorities, and, in fact, the NEA’s activities have done significant damage to that mission, all the while demanding that the public from which it extracts its funding continue pouring more into the kitty, even while private sector employees, including those in CBU’s, have lost their jobs or experienced substantial reductions in their wages and benefits, due to economic realities. Also, while jailers are definitely public safety employees, in that they have even more personal and expanded contact with arrestees than cops, dispatchers do not similarly qualify. While what they do is vital to law enforcement communications, a good number of them are pigeon-holed in secured 911 communications centers, and their only contact with the citizenry is via telephone.