A lot of people have a lot to say about the union protests in Wisconsin and the governor’s plan to curtail collective bargaining for teachers. Those on the ground are best qualified to hash out the big issues, so I’ll just add three morsels to the conversation.
1) Sickouts. The Madison school district and others were closed yesterday due to teacher sickouts. There has been some debate about whether this constitutes an illegal strike, but for a protest that centers on public employee collective bargaining, it’s ironic that whatever you want to call it, yesterday’s protest was a violation of the Madison teachers’ collective bargaining agreement.
Madison teachers are allowed five personal leave days per year, but are required by contract to notify the principal at least three working days in advance. Since the teachers themselves didn’t have that much notice of the protest, they had to use sick leave. The contract spells out in exacting detail the purposes for which sick leave can be used. Union rallies are not among them.
Some may consider the protest a matter of principle or civil disobedience, That’s all well and good. But remember, the only reason to call in sick is so you still get paid for the day. So go ahead and yell. Just remember who’s paying for the microphone.
The Madison contract also contains this provision:
Therefore, MTI agrees that there will not be any strikes, work stoppages or slow downs during the life of this Agreement, i.e., for the period commencing July 1, 2009 and ending June 30, 2011. Upon the notification of the President and Executive Director of MTI by the President of the Board of Education of the Madison Metropolitan School District of any unauthorized concerted activity, as noted above, MTI shall notify those in the collective bargaining unit that it does not endorse such activity. Having given such notification, MTI shall be freed of all liability in relation thereto.
Whatever you call it, it was certainly an “unauthorized concerted activity.”