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Teachers unions may merge


MADISON (WSAU)   Wisconsin’s two largest teachers’ unions will consider merging, and doing more to help members address concerns in their local school districts. The Wisconsin Education Association Council’s representative assembly approved merger talks over the weekend, after the state’s chapter of the American Federation of Teachers did the same. Membership in both groups plunged by 30-percent since the 2011 law which virtually eliminated collective bargaining by most public unions. That’s because union dues are no longer mandatory.

WEAC president Mary Bell says her group has had a relationship with A-F-T for decades, and it’s more useful for the two to work together and present a united front. WEAC director Dan Burkhalter told the Wisconsin State Journal that its business model has been quote, “busted up.” He said the union was geared mainly toward collective bargaining – and spending big money to campaign for public officials who would preserve those privileges.

Members said the new focus is to make local unions as powerful as possible. Just before the bargaining law passed, many school districts extended their previous contracts – but they generally expired in June.

Some schools, like Madison, scrambled to approve new contracts in September after a Dane County struck down the collective bargaining limits for schools and local governments. The state is appealing that decision.