What is WEAC?
Who are its Members?
WEAC is Wisconsin’s largest union of educators. Membership includes:
- Teachers, counselors and library media specialists in public K-12 schools.
- Education support professionals—secretaries, teacher aides, bus drivers, custodians, cooks—employed in public K-12 schools.
- Faculty and support staff in the Wisconsin Technical College System.
- Active retired members.
- University students who are studying to be educators.
What is WEAC’s History?
WEAC began as a statewide educational organization in 1853. For more than 100 years, membership included teachers and administrators. In the 1960s, following passage of a collective bargaining law for public employees, the Wisconsin Education Association evolved into a pro-active teachers union and in 1972 changed its name to the Wisconsin Education Association Council. It was involved in many teacher strikes during the late 1960s and 1970s. Following the bitter 1974 Hortonville teachers strike in which all 84 teachers were fired, the Legislature passed the mediation-arbitration law, creating a system for resolving contract disputes without strikes.
In 1993, the Wisconsin Legislature passed laws that weakened educators’ collective bargaining rights. Labor strife has returned to many communities. In the 1980s and early 1990s, WEAC expanded its membership to education support staff, as well as UW, technical college and State of Wisconsin education and information professionals.
Even after a law was passed in 2011 designed to weaken the rights of public employees like educators to advocate on behalf of their students, profession and schools, the union continues to exist and thrive through grassroots collective action and advocacy. WEAC remains the largest union of educators in Wisconsin.
How is WEAC Structured?
The Local Union
The local union (for example, the Arcadia Education Association) is the primary membership unit and responsible for issues that directly affect the compensation, working conditions and professional interests of members. The local advocates for students and school conditions with the employer on behalf of the collective membership. Locals also carry out a broad range of professional and community relations programs. WEAC has about 700 local affiliates, each with a team of local educators elected by members to serve as officers.
Regions are collective groups of local associations in the same geographic area that assist with professional development, political action, public relations and other areas. Each of the units has its own governance, with members electing officers. Five large locals serve as their own urban regions — Milwaukee, Madison, Racine, Kenosha and Green Bay.
WEAC is the state-level union. Members run WEAC through an annual Representative Assembly and an elected board of directors. At the Representative Assembly, nearly 1,000 delegates make major policy decisions and adopt a budget. RA delegates elect WEAC officers, including the full-time president, vice-president and secretary-treasurer. The WEAC president oversees policy implementation on a daily basis and is WEAC’s chief spokesperson. Currently, Betsy Kippers of Racine, an adaptive physical education teacher for special needs students, is serving as president. WEAC staff members, under the direction of the executive director, carry out the policies of the organization on a day-to-day basis.
The National Education Association, based in Washington, D.C., is America’s oldest and largest organization committed to advancing the cause of public education. Founded in 1857, the NEA has 3 million members who work at every level of education, from preschool to university graduate programs. NEA’s work ranges from coordinating innovative projects to restructuring how learning takes place to fighting congressional attempts to privatize public education. The NEA, governed through an elected Representative Assembly, provides national research and bargaining support, legal support, political action and lobbying services, and a vast library of books, brochures, pamphlets, videos and other communications services on professional and educational issues. Among the services it offers are on-the-job liability insurance, a monthly member magazine, computer support, and professional development opportunities.