This synopsis is intended to provide MTI members with a summary of the good work that their union has been engaged in over the past school year. This is a partial description, providing general highlights. Click the heading to jump to the description.
Successful MTI Membership Renewal Campaign and Transition from Payroll Deduction of Dues to Electronic Funds Transfer.
Once MTI’s Contracts expired on June 30, 2016, fair share fees and the payroll deduction of dues were prohibited by Governor Walker’s anti-union law, Act 10. Given these challenges, last summer and early fall MTI undertook a massive membership renewal campaign which resulted in approximately 80% of all MTI-represented employees voluntarily renewing their MTI membership. MTI also worked to develop an innovative web-based membership sign up and direct dues payment process to efficiently collect MTI dues via the electronic transfer of funds between member checking/savings accounts and MTI accounts. These new processes were essential to provide MTI with a new funding mechanism to support the continued work of the Union.
In response to Act 10 prohibitions on collective bargaining, MTI worked with the MMSD to develop an innovative collaborative process to transition from Contracts to an Employee Handbook. During the summer of 2016, MTI continued its collaborative work with the MMSD to review and recommend revisions to the MMSD Employee Handbook. While many public employers have used Act 10 to make unilateral changes to pay, benefits, and employment policies without employee participation, MTI’s work with the Board of Education and MMSD administration continues to ensure that such considerations are made in a collaborative manner with MTI-represented employees having a seat at the table.
Another one of Governor Walker’s Act 10 hurdles is the requirement that to continue as a certified labor organization, a Union needs to participate in an annual recertification election where at least 51% of all eligible employees need to cast votes in favor of certification. Recognizing the value of their Union, MTI represented employees have voted to recertify MTI by overwhelming numbers in each of the past three years. In the fall of 2016, MTI engaged in a significant recertification campaign which resulted in nearly 77% of all eligible MTI-represented employees cast a ballot with 99% voting to recertify MTI as their Union.
During the summer of 2016, MTI leadership discussed the prospects of a school referendum with District Administration and members of the Board of Education. A successful referendum was needed to provide additional revenue to prevent continued cuts to staffing and programs, given the insufficient state funding provided to schools. The BOE scheduled a referendum for November 2016 and MTI worked to organize member and community support for the referendum, which passed with 74% of the vote and allowed MMSD to increase school revenues by $26 million over the next four years. Without the passage of this referendum, MTI members and District students could have witnessed numerous staff layoffs, larger classes, staff wage freezes and benefit cuts, and the elimination and reduction of programs and services. The successful referendum helps provide the resources to prevent such cuts and maintain staffing and programs.
MTI’s political action committee, MTI-Voters, conducted interviews and made endorsements in numerous state and local elections. All candidates endorsed by MTI VOTERS for the MMSD Board of Education prevailed in elections held in April, 2017. Also of significance was the re-election of Tony Evers for State Superintendent for Public Instruction. Evers was also endorsed by MTI VOTERS and was challenged by two candidates who were supporters of vouchers. Evers’ election ensures that public schools have a champion leading DPI, who will fight for fair funding and oppose privatization efforts. This election was a critical victory for public education.
When Governor Walker proposed legislation that could mandate that employees pay 12% of their health insurance premiums, MTI worked with MMSD to explore options to retain quality health insurance choices, while freeing benefits’ money to apply towards salary increases. By changing from three HMO options to two HMO options, over $3 million was made available for employee salary increases. This money helped fund the 1.26% base wage increase that all employees will receive (see below), along with the salary schedule step and lane increases (see below). Additional salary adjustments are still under consideration. Should the state budget be finalized to include a requirement that employees pay 12% of their health insurance premiums, the District has committed to making sure that any insurance savings is rolled into wage increases to make sure employees suffer no loss in take-home pay. MTI will hold the District to this commitment.
Continuation of Salary Schedule including Step and Lane Movement. MTI’s advocacy in the Employee Handbook discussions has continued the salary schedules of all units. MTI’s work on the successful school referendum helped provide sufficient revenue to fund the step and lane increases associated with the salary schedules. While numerous school districts have used “Act 10 tools” to unilaterally change salary schedules, many eliminating steps and lanes, MTI’s advocacy has continued the MMSD salary schedule with movement (steps and lanes) based on the objective and equitable criteria of years of service and continuing education (via academic or PAC credit). The salary schedule provides MTI-represented teachers with an average annual salary increase of approximately 2% per year, approximately $1,100 per year for an average teacher.
MTI-represented ESEA employees have salary schedules with step and longevity pay increases that also provide average annual increases of between 1-2%. During the 2017 Employee Handbook discussions, MTI and the MMSD will discuss potential changes to both the teacher salary schedule and EA salary schedule due to the compression issues associated with the increased entry level rates. These discussions will be of critical importance to MTI-represented employees and MTI will provide regular updates to all members, as well as opportunities for input, as the discussions commence.
Negotiation of the Maximum Allowable Base-wage Increase of 1.26%. In addition to the step and lane pay increases provided by the salary schedule, MTI negotiated a 1.26% salary increase for all MTI-represented employees (the maximum wage increase allowed by law). This increase will provide MTI-represented teachers with an annual pay increase of between $500 and $1,000, depending on salary level. Therefore, the negotiated base-wage increase combined with the salary schedule step/lane increases, should provide the average teacher a salary increase of approximately 3.2%, or $1,700 in 2017-18. MTI-represented ESEA employees will also see increases to their pay proportionate to their current earnings (no “’average” salary data is available for this diverse unit).
MTI initiated an EA Living Wage Campaign in January, 2017. At the time, over 200 EAs and SEAs received less than $15 per hour. MTI made this an issue during Board of Education candidate interviews and received commitments from each candidate that they would advocate for a $15 per living wage, if elected. Due to these efforts, as part of their 2017-18 budget discussions, the BOE has committed to a $15 per hour minimum living wage for all regular MMSD employees.
MTI advocated in support of an MMSD proposal to increase the starting teacher salary to $41,096, and to make sure that any current teachers making less than that are raised to that level. These increases will make MMSD more competitive with other school districts and will provide much-needed salary increases to those teachers making the lowest salaries. According to the most recent DPI data, MMSD starting salaries were in the lowest quartile when compared with districts statewide. MMSD average teacher salaries were in the top quartile. While all teachers deserve a salary increase, it was clear that MMSD starting salaries needed a dramatic increase to provide competitive compensation.
The changes in the bargaining law and MTI’s method of working on the Employee Handbook raised questions about the continued relevance of smaller “bargaining units”. After engaging the leadership and membership of MTI’s Educational Assistants, Supportive Educational Employees and School Security Assistants bargaining units, it was enthusiastically agreed to consolidate all three of these smaller units into one large union, the Educational Support Employees Association (ESEA) of MTI. The consolidation into one unit creates opportunities for increased support and solidarity within each worksite and provides a large pool of talent in which to draw union leadership.
MTI negotiated an agreement with WEA Member Benefits to provide financial consultations and retirement planning to MTI members. WEA Member Benefits trained and employed retired MMSD teacher (and former MTI President) Steve Pike to work with MTI members in this area, assisted by Ana Bonjour (WEA Member Benefits). Over the course of the 2016-17 school year, WEA Member Benefits held 11 workshops attended by 119 MTI members on topics ranging from financial planning to understanding the Wisconsin Retirement System. Steve also conducted 79 individual retirement meetings and 129 individual financial planning meetings with MTI members, and held seminars at eight (8) different schools for 103 MTI members.
Another new initiative MTI commenced this past school year was a partnership with WEAC Region 6 (the Union that represents teachers in districts surrounding Madison) to provide support for teachers working on National Board Certification (NBC). MTI and Region 6 worked with WEAC to provide training to members, with NBC certified Union members conducting no-cost monthly workshops to members working on their NBC. MTI-represented teachers who complete NBC receive annual stipends of $1,500 from the MMSD and $2,500 from the State of Wisconsin. Approximately, fifteen (15) teachers participated in the workshops and over 30 have registered for sessions for 2017-18.
Working with WEA Member Benefits and Madison Memorial teacher (and MTI member) Ben Senson, three workshops were conducted for MTI members interested in learning about student loan forgiveness programs. Senson succeeded in having over $30,000 in loans forgiven. A video was created of this presentation (which is available on the MTI webpage) and additional sessions will be held over the summer and next school year.
After thirty-seven (37) years on Williamson Street, MTI sold its deteriorating Headquarters and relocated to the WEAC Building on Nob Hill. The relocation provides MTI members with better meeting and parking space, and provides MTI with more proximate access to our state and regional partners (WEAC and Region 6). The new offices also provide space for the new MTI Center for New Teacher Retention and Support (CENTRS). The MTI Board of Directors and Finance Committee will be charged with determining the best use of the assets gained from the sale of the MTI building.
MTI was one of the first unions in Wisconsin to negotiate benefits for domestic partners and was also one of the first to honor the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with a negotiated holiday. Continuing this social justice work, and in addition to our work on issues associated with public education and educators, MTI has continued to be active in social justice advocacy.
- MTI Standing Rock Pipeline Resolution. Last fall, the MTI Board of Directors and Faculty Representative Council passed a resolution opposed to the Standing Rock pipeline and had the resolution shared with the organizers of the Standing Rock protest. Several MTI members visited the Standing Rock pipeline protest to offer their support.
- Safe Zone Resolution. After the election of Donald Trump, the MTI Board and Faculty Representative Council passed a “safe zone” resolution to advocate that the Board of Education adopt policies to protect refugee, immigrant, and undocumented students from immigration raids. In March, the Board of Education passed such a resolution adopting the recommendations advanced by MTI.
- MTI Cares Bowl-a-thon. After raising $30,000 for the Briar Patch Teen Homeless Shelter over the past three years, MTI Cares partnered with Safe Harbor Child Advocacy Center this year and raised over $11,000 for this essential agency. Safe Harbor is a child advocacy center that conducts safe and sensitive forensic interviews of children who are witnesses or victims of abuse.
- Marches, Rallies, and Observances. MTI promoted, and MTI members attended, numerous marches organized in opposition and resistance to the Trump administration’s agenda, including the Women’s March in January, the March for Science in April, and the Day without Latinos Protest in May. MTI was present for the Workers’ Memorial Day observance for workers who died on the job and stood in solidarity with our private sector and public sector brothers and sisters to “honor the dead and fight for the living.”
- Lawsuit protecting the elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction. MTI spear-headed a lawsuit which successfully challenged the legislature’s attempt to usurp the power of the democratically elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction, protecting this constitutionally provided elected position from partisan meddling.
The MTI Board of Directors appointed a committee of current and former MTI presidents to review the leadership structure of MTI, particularly the role of president. For decades, the MTI President has worked as a full-time teacher and has been limited to performing his/her MTI duties at night and on weekends. This workload has limited the involvement of the President in the work of MTI, and has precluded some members from considering running for this leadership position. After reviewing leadership structures in other large Wisconsin school districts, the Committee recommended, and the MTI Faculty Rep Council approved, modifications to MTI Bylaws to allow for a full-time “release time” MTI President beginning with the 2017-18 school year and to extend the term to two years. Through MTI’s work with the National Education Association (NEA) on the CENTRS project (see below), MTI secured NEA funding to pay for the full-time release President, i.e. no MTI dues are currently needed to fund this position.
Last fall, MTI was approached by the National Education Association (NEA) concerned about teacher attrition and inquired whether MTI would be interested in exploring a project to provide increased professional support to new educators. The MTI Board appointed a committee to explore this opportunity and that exploration led to MTI’s application and approval to participate in a network improvement community with the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association (MTEA), the Green Bay Education Association (GBEA), the Missoula (Montana) Education Association, and their respective school districts to develop, measure, and refine ideas for new educator support. This work will be supported by the NEA, the Carnegie Foundation, and the New Teacher Center. The MTI Board appointed MTI member Kerry Motoviloff to lead this work for MTI, with costs funded by the NEA. The work of the MTI Center for New Teacher Support and Retention (CENTRS) will commence in the fall of 2017 and will present exciting possibilities for MTI to support early educators.
The MTI Calendar Committee met with MMSD administration to develop the school calendar for the 2017-18 school year. Despite the unusual dates of several holidays, the requirement of a 192-day teacher contract, and the District’s push to further shorten breaks, MTI was able to retain an 8-day winter break and 5-day spring break with school ending the second week of June. Improvements to the parent-teacher conference schedule were also achieved. The Calendar Committee has already begun work on the 2018-19 school calendar and MTI appointees are advocating for a return to a 10-day winter break.
The MTI Board of Directors held a retreat during the summer of 2016 to discuss the creation of mission statements and belief statements for MTI. Who are we and what do we stand for? The draft statements were then shared with the MTI Faculty Rep Council for further refinement, and will be shared with the membership for continued discussion and refinement during the 2017-18 school year. These statements are intended to be more than simply “words on paper,” and are intended to guide the work of MTI as we move into the future.
When the contract for Educational Resource Officers (EROs) came up for renewal between the MMSD and the Madison Police Department, MTI reached out to MTI’s elected high school leaders to determine how they viewed these positions. Based on input received by members that the EROs generally represented community policing at its best and were critical to school safety, MTI lobbied the Board of Education to renew the ERO contract to ensure that their services would continue to be available in MMSD middle and high schools. MTI also assisted The Capital Times in identifying teacher participation on a speaker’s panel regarding police in the schools to assist the BOE and community in their policy considerations.
This past spring, MTI convened a Planning Time Committee to survey teachers on planning time needs and to advocate for district policies that ensure and protect teacher planning time. These discussions will continue as part of our Employee Handbook review work over the summer.
A newly formed MTI Action Committee met with parent advocates and BOE members to advocate for hard caps for class sizes. These discussions resulted in action by the BOE to budget additional funds to address class size reduction needs this fall. This work will continue.
In addition to the many organizational goals achieved, MTI professional staff assisted hundreds of MTI members on individual matters. Highly-qualified MTI staff representatives, and legal counsel, provide assistance and representation only to MTI members, and this year we had numerous poignant examples of why this representation was needed.
For example, MTI staff represented an EA-MTI member who was fired from her position without good cause. MTI staff and legal counsel advocated for the EA in an arbitration hearing and received an arbitration award which determined that her dismissal was excessive and awarded reinstatement with back pay and benefits. MTI’s work on the Employee Handbook has ensured that just cause standards for discipline and dismissal continue for all members, as well as the right to grieve and go to arbitration if these rights are violated. Had this EA not been an MTI member, no MTI representation would have been provided.
MTI staff worked on dozens of allegations of Employee Handbook violations during the 2016-17 school year; the majority of which have been successfully resolved.
MTI also settled five long-term disability (LTD) claims that had been denied by the insurance carrier, negotiating lost wages for members who were unable to work due to medical disabilities. Again, non-members receive no representation on such denials.
In addition, since the spring of 2016, MTI staff assisted:
- Over 350 members with leaves of absence/maternity leave/paternity leave/FMLA
- Over 150 members with general Employee Handbook-related issues
- Over 100 members with medical leaves of absence or disability/ADA accommodations
- Over 50 members with medical long-term disability (LTD) claims
- Over 50 members with Educator Effectiveness or Plans of Improvement/Performance Concerns
- Over 50 members with health insurance questions and issues
- Over 25 members with conflicts with principals/supervisors/parents
- Over 25 members with work-related injuries
- Over 25 members with salary and benefits issues
- Over 25 members with MTI Solidarity Fund loans
- Over 20 members with contract reductions
- Multiple members with representation at meetings with principals/supervisors/legal counsel