Posted at 2:50 p.m. on July 21, 2021
By Benjamin Yount
Center Square News Service
MILWAUKEE - One of Wisconsin’s conservative think tanks wants a judge to decide if Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) should continue to pay teachers not to teach.
The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty filed a lawsuit challenging MPS’ policy that pays union representatives full time wages and benefits for doing work for the teachers’ union.
“Under the MPS union leave policy, Milwaukee taxpayers foot the bill to pay employees not for the public school jobs they were hired for, but rather to engage in union-related activities,” WILL Deputy Counsel, Lucas Vebber said.
Vebber said the policy violates the Constitutional protection against “compelled speech.”
He also said paying teachers for union-only work violates the requirement that public money be spent on public work.
“We certainly have no objection to public employees doing what they want to do in their own free time, and our suit doesn’t address that,” Vebber said. “Our suit only addresses where
MPS is releasing, with pay, their public employees from their public jobs to engage in union related activities.”
MPS’ union leave policy states that employees can use at least 10 days each year for paid union leave.
Any MPS employee using union leave is working solely as a “representative” of their union for the purpose of participating in “union-related activities.” According to the union leave policy, MPS employees are not restricted from engaging in a number of different political activities while on leave.
“This suit involves a public employer using public resources to allow public employees to engage in ‘union related activities,’” Vebber explained. “So this is unique from other union reps who may represent a private employer.”
Vebber said WILL doesn’t know right now just how many people use or could use the union leave policy to take time off and organize for the union.
“There are a number of unions that represent MPS employees, and we do not know the exact number of union reps, but it is more than just a few who utilize the union leave policy,” Vebber said. “We will release more information as the suit moves on.”