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Waterford High school’s union decertified; teachers lose bargaining powers

Waterford High school’s union decertified; teachers lose bargaining powers

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WATERFORD — Waterford High School’s teachers union has decertified and can no longer negotiate with the district.

The union had been challenging Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission data showing not enough of its members voted to recertify in late 2013. But the union withdrew the challenge Feb. 7, said Peter Davis, WERC’s chief legal counsel.

That means “the election results stand as reported,” Davis said. “The matter has been resolved. The union advised they were conceding they were no longer the collective bargaining representative for the Waterford teachers.”

The union initially challenged the vote over “irregularities” in the voting process, which is done over the phone by providing login information. Some Waterford High School teachers reportedly had to call more than 10 times to get through; others said the phone system incorrectly associated them with Watertown schools or prior employers, instead of Waterford High School, said Joan Heithoff, executive director for Southern Lakes United Educators union, which includes the Waterford High School teachers union.

A subsequent internal investigation revealed all votes were appropriately counted, so the union withdrew the challenge, Heithoff said.

Teachers unions across Wisconsin had to vote to recertify between Nov. 29 and Dec. 19 because Wisconsin’s Act 10 requires such unions to recertify annually. Fifty-one percent of a union’s eligible voters had to vote yes for recertification.

WERC totals show that of the Waterford High School teachers union’s 80 members, 40 voted, with 39 voting in favor of recertification and one voting against it. Such a vote means decertification.

A decertified union can no longer collectively bargain with its related school district; Act 10 limited collective bargaining for such unions to wages only. That means Waterford High School officials can set teachers’ wage rates without negotiating with them.

Wage rates for the current 2013-14 school year have not yet been set, said Waterford High School Superintendent Keith Brandstetter.

“We can make our own but we want to have some input,” he said. “The (School) Board will probably schedule a meeting to hear what staff has to say and then make a decision” on wages.

Decertified but not gone

A decertified teachers union like Waterford High School’s can continue to exist, holding meetings, collecting dues, attempting to influence employers and more, according to Heithoff and Davis.

Heithoff said that means unions at Waterford High School — and in the Waterford Graded School District, where the teachers union also decertified — will continue to function.

The situation is similar at North Cape and Drought elementary schools, where unions decertified in 2011 but technically continue to exist, according to the Wisconsin Education Association Council, which oversees those unions. In those two cases, the unions are not at all active though, according to North Cape Executive Assistant/Bookkeeper Carla Carroll and Drought Secretary Debbie Stephens. Most North Cape, Drought and Waterford Graded students continue onto Waterford High School.

Decertified unions have options for recertifying if members are interested, Davis said.

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