WILL FILES LAWSUIT AGAINST WERC

Published on: October 30, 2013

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On behalf of a group of public school teachers, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation filed a lawsuit in Waukesha County against the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC) asking the judge to honor and uphold the teachers’ full Act 10 rights, including the right to vote in upcoming union certification elections.

Rick Esenberg, WILL President and General Counsel, explains the lawsuit:  “Act 10 is the law of the land until a higher court decides otherwise.  Judge Colás’ rulings are not binding on our clients or tens of thousands of other teachers across the state.  They, their employers, and their unions were not parties to the original Madison Teachers case.  Therefore, they are afforded all of the rights, freedoms, and protections under Act 10.”

The plaintiffs, five public school teachers across Wisconsin, are asking the judge to direct WERC to hold the elections for union certification before December 1, 2013, as required by law under Act 10.  They are also asking the judge to ensure that their full Act 10 rights be protected, such as the freedom to resign from a union and to negotiate their own employment agreements.

Elections for union certification were previously scheduled by WERC to begin on November 1, 2013.  By law, if the union representative does not receive at least 51% of votes from all the employees, WERC must decertify the union.  WERC, however, has cancelled these elections, citing Dane County Circuit Court Judge Colás’ decision to hold them in contempt of court.  “But our clients still have rights under Act 10,” said Tom Kamenick, Associate Counsel at WILL.  “Circuit court decisions are not precedential, and no court has ever ruled that our clients, their school districts, or the unions that represent them are not bound to follow Act 10.”

Nick Johnson, a teacher at Milwaukee Public Schools’ Ronald Reagan High School, is one of the plaintiffs.  “In denying teachers the right to vote and take an active role in their profession, WERC is hindering rather than helping our livelihoods, our students, and ultimately the future of our nation,” said Nick.

The lawsuit was filed in the Waukesha Circuit Court; two of the plaintiffs are employed by the school district of Waukesha.

WILL also filed an amicus brief on behalf of the same group of public school teachers in the Court of Appeals asking the Court of Appeals to stay (halt) Judge Colás’ decision to hold WERC in contempt of court.

The Complaint is available here.

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