The Union Difference: How Their Power and Influence Affects Everyone’s Safety

By Frank Emspak

This article was originally produced for the September 18 episode of Labor Radio. Labor Radio airs every Friday at 5:30 pm on WORT FM 89.9. You can also stream it online or listen to past episodes of Labor Radio at wortfm.org.

In July  Madison Teachers Inc. the union representing Madison public school teachers  and staff  put forth their ideas as to how to open the Madison Metropolitan School system in ways that would protect the health and safety of all concerned- teachers, students, and staff. After a few weeks of back and forth discussions MTI and the School Board were able to develop a mutually satisfactory plan of action.  As a result Madison schools will open, with some students in school, and others on line.  In addition MTI and the School Board, and the Madison community are developing the resources to provide child care for those students whose parents must return to work.

The difference is clear: the Madison School Board has a relationship of respect with the union, Madison Teachers Inc. and those it represents. The University of Wisconsin disdains those who work at the University and disrespects their organizations.

Meanwhile, the smart restart of the University of Wisconsin looks dumber by the day.  It appears to have accomplished increasing the COVID-19 levels in Dane County and the city of Madison. Well over 3500 students are quarantined to their dorms.  Face to face classes are banned. All classes are virtual. The UW is considering drastic action whatever that might be. Faculty, academic staff, teaching assistants and support staff have all spoken out against the so called plan. UFAS and the TAA have tried to approach the UW with their ideas  specifically arguing that it is premature to start in person classes until at least the end of October.   In contrast to the School Board, the University has refused to meet and confer with the unions who collectively have over a thousand members. The UW continues to stonewall the public, staff and students. The difference is clear: the Madison School Board has a relationship of respect with the union, Madison Teachers Inc. and those it represents. The University of Wisconsin disdains those who work at the University and disrespects their organizations.  

While all collective bargaining in the public sector is constrained in many ways, the Madison Metropolitan School district and the union have found ways to talk with each other . The UW has done the opposite, refusing to meet and confer with the unions on campus and thus endangering the city, the county the students and the staff.

The anti-union bias of the University places all of us in jeopardy.

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