Falls teachers union, district at odds over taking dues from paychecks

Sept. 26, 2011

Menomonee Falls - The fight over Act 10 in Menomonee Falls apparently didn't end with the ratification of new teacher contracts in May.

A new battle has been undertaken by the Menomonee Falls Education Association, which asserts that since that contract was signed before the repair bill was made law, Act 10's stipulation that school districts can no longer take union dues out of paychecks does not apply.

The mere fact that the contracts were signed before the institution of Act 10 means the contract itself is valid, but the argument now is whether this secondary provision applies.

The teachers union says it does not, while the school district says their legal counsel insists it does. Falls is arguing that since Act 10 became effective on June 29 and the 2009-11 contract expired on June 30, as of July 1 the language of Act 10 ought to apply to the newly signed and enacted 2011-13 contract.

MFEA wanted to bring in an arbitrator to decide the case, but that arbitrator would only have been able to rule on the language of the collectively bargained agreement itself, not how that agreement applies to the law.

As a result, the school district requested a declaratory hearing in front of the Wisconsin Employee Relations Council, which would have proper authority to rule on such matters. A ruling from the WERC may not come for months and, as a result, the district has decided all union dues deducted from paychecks between now and the ruling will be put in an escrow account to be redistributed should it be declared that Act 10 did apply to the contract.

No dues have been taken out of any paychecks as the first set of dues was slated to be taken out Sept. 30 - the district's pay period is the 15th and the last day of every month.

Superintendent Pat Greco said the escrow account is aimed at making sure teachers don't get stuck holding the bag.

"What we're trying to prevent is forcing teachers to have to come up with hundreds of dollars mid-year should the WERC rule in favor (of the union)," she said. That scenario may have occurred had the district chosen not to take out union dues and the WERC ruled in favor of the unions, leaving teachers to have to pay back that money.

More than 300 teachers are in the MFEA. Dues to be a part of that union are $755 annually.

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