June 16, 2023

Wage Negotiations Heating Up The Summer

Wage Negotiations Heating Up The Summer Featured Image

Fair Pay Now! programs paying dividends

During a time of historic inflation and unprecedented staff shortages, some WEAC members are negotiating pay increases that keep up with the high cost of living while others continue to fight hard for fair pay and professional respect.

Meanwhile, the state’s Joint Finance Committee and Governor Tony Evers have announced an agreement on shared revenue which should see school districts getting a $325 per-pupil increase per year for each of the next two years. Many locals and employers had agreed to wait to negotiate until after the revenue picture cleared. There are likely to be many new wage agreements reached throughout the state in July and August.

“Local leaders and staff will continue to work hard throughout this summer to negotiate fairer pay that will allow great educators to afford to work in the school districts where they have invested so much of themselves,” WEAC President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen said. “Where the pay does not keep up with the cost of living, the teachers and staff often find that they have no choice but to leave in order to support their families.”

Wirtz-Olsen says it is not too late for local leaders who have not yet engaged with WEAC’s Fair Pay Now! program to get involved. The program helps locals organize their members around fair pay principles.

The Milwaukee Teachers Education Association and Madison Teachers Inc. negotiated 8 percent pay increases this year in addition to advancement on professional pay schedules. The latest data shows Milwaukee has about 340 teacher vacancies and Madison has about 140. Similar wage agreements have been reached with WEAC locals in Racine, Waunakee, Monona Grove, Rhinelander and elsewhere, while the union in Wauwatosa worked with administrators on a package of pay increases that amounts to a 12 percent increase for every teacher.

With the Consumer Price Index sitting at 8 percent for labor contracts ending in June, WEAC locals in Oak Creek, Racine and throughout the state continue to push for pay agreements that at least meet that threshold.

The Oak Creek Education Association delivered a petition to the school board signed by almost 90 percent of the teachers on staff calling for the state to fund Wisconsin’s schools and the Oak Creek Franklin School District to negotiate pay increases that at least keep up with the cost of living.

With a CPI of 4.7 percent last year, most of the teachers in Oak Creek Franklin worked under a 2.25 percent pay increase in the 2022-23 school year. This was the lowest increase in the area, said WEAC Region 7 director Ted Kraig.

“With our union’s help, some employers are waking up and realizing that fair pay can be the solution to their districts’ staff shortages,” Wirtz-Olsen said.