On this day in labor history, the year was 2011.
That was the day Madison Public School teachers held a sickout, in opposition to Governor Scott Walker’s anti-labor assaults.
Walker had introduced Assembly Bill 11.
Later known as Act 10, this union-busting bill proposed the elimination of collective bargaining rights for public sector workers regarding health and pension benefits, limited wage increases, eliminated dues collection and mandated annual union recertification.
Immediately, tens of thousands of protesters descended on the state capitol, chanting, “Kill the Bill,” and took part in hearings to voice their opposition.
Area schools remained closed for days as protests continued to grow throughout the spring.
While parts of Act 10 have been ruled unconstitutional in the years since, the legislation has nonetheless wreaked havoc.
A recent series in Milwaukee’s Journal-Sentinel, titled “Act 10 at Five,” examined how public school teachers have fared since the Madison Uprising.
They found that 75% of school districts are losing teachers, retirements have surged, less are entering the profession and most job-hop to the highest salary offers.
Teachers’ unions like MTEA and WEAC report major losses.
MTEA notes that membership is down by 30%. WEAC reports that membership and dues collections were cut in half and there are difficulties in organizing new teachers.
Seniority rights have evaporated and layoffs are increasingly tied to performance.
Annual salary growth has slowed, stopped or reversed.
Teacher morale is low in many districts.
Teachers often complain of additional unpaid duties, larger class sizes and more performance reviews.
There are new restrictions on attire, speech and political activities.
If there is any good news, it is that unions survive annual recertification and remaining members are more active and engaged in union work.