- Beilke, Dustin and Micklos, Chris. Wisconsin Education Association Council: A History. Madison, Wis.: Wisconsin Education Association Council; 2001. 102 p.
Notes: This history traces the development of the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC), a union which today represents public school teachers, educational support personnel, student teachers, Wisconsin Technical College System employees, state of Wisconsin education and information professionals and WEAC retired members. The organization began in Madison, Wisconsin in 1853 when eight educators met to form the Wisconsin Teachers Association (WTA). The organization re-named itself in 1935 to the Wisconsin Education Association (WEA) and, finally, in 1972 to the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC). In a letter tipped in to this history one of the authors explains that this book “is intended to commemorate and celebrate the work done by veteran WEAC members and staffers who are retiring or close to retirement as we also look toward communicating this history to new young members who may not know it otherwise.”If only more unions ensured that their history was captured to be transferred to those who follow!
- Hellwig, Jason F. “Big Labor in a Small Town: The Hortonville Teachers’ Strike”. Voyageur: Northeast Wisconsin’s Historical Review. 2003 Winter-2004 Spring; 19(2):10-18, 21-26.
Notes: Hortonville, Wisconsin, a community of 1,500 people located ten miles northwest of Appleton, Wisconsin, was the site of a 1974 teachers’ strike, a public employee labor dispute so polarizing that it still reverberates down through Wisconsin politics today. One must look at a myriad of social forces of the times to understand how this quiet farming community became such a focal point of controversary in Wisconsin’s history and the author explores the situation in as even-handed a way as possible. The parties to the dispute were the Hortonville School District and the district’s eighty-eight school teachers, who were represented by the Hortonville Education Association, an affilitate of the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC). Their negotiations had begun in Spring 1973 on the contract to cover the school year running from September 1973 through June 1974 , but no settlement had yet been reached when the school term began. In February 1974, when a tentative agreement was finally reached, the union indicated that it would not sign the agreement “unless negotiations were undertaken and completed on the next year’s contract as well” (p. 12). The school board refused to open more negotiations at this point and the teachers began informational picketing before and after school hours, as well as refusing to supervise after-school extracurricular activities. On the morning of March 18, 1974, giving “the board’s refusal to negotiate in good faith with the teachers as the primary reason” (p. 12), the union began a strike. Over April 1-3 the school board had scheduled a disciplinary hearing for each teacher, but teacher after teacher argued during their hearing that the school board could not serve as an impartial panel in such a matter and refused to participate, except for only two teachers who asked to be allowed to return to work. As public employee strikes were illegal in Wisconsin at the time, the school board could have applied for an injunction against the union to halt the strike, but that would have required a return to the bargaining table for both sides. Instead, on April 2, the school board fired all of the striking teachers and insisted that any interested in continuing employment had to re-apply for their job, but only one teacher did so. The school board then began to hire replacement teachers. The union immediately sought a legal injunction to stop the replacement hiring and also argued in their lawsuit that the striking teachers had been denied due process at their disciplinary hearings. On April 12, 1974 the Manitowoc County Circuit Court refused the request for the injunction against the replacement hiring. Mediation efforts followed and in May three teachers were re-hired for vacant teaching positions in the district, but there was no further movement on either side. In July the Manitowoc County Circuit Court ruled against the union regarding the due process of the firings by the school board. The case was then appealed in October to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which ruled for the teachers in February 1975. That April, however, the school board appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court which accepted the case and on June 17, 1976 issued a 6-3 decision against the teachers, finding that “the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment did not guarantee respondent teachers that the decision to terminate their employment would be made by a body other than the school board” (p. 15). In the end, very few of the striking teachers were able to return to teaching for the Hortonville School District. The Hortonville Education Association had received a great deal of support from its parent organization and other Wisconsin labor organizations, which devoted many resources to “a lengthy battle that directly challenged Wisconsin’s collective bargaining law and its lack of a binding arbitration provision” (p. 13).
- Wisconsin Education Association Council. “The Hortonville Teachers’ Strike of 1974”. IN: Holter, Darryl. Workers and Unions in Wisconsin: A Labor History Anthology. Madison, Wis.: State Historical Society of Wisconsin; 1999; pp. 240-243.
Notes: An account of one of the bitterest strikes in the state’s history, the 1974 Hortonville, Wisconsin strike by the public school teachers, represented by the Hortonville Education Association (H.E.A.), against the Hortonville Joint School District, which was represented by Melli, Walker and Pease, the Madison, Wisconsin law firm notorious for union-busting tactics. After working for five months past the expiration date of their contract and with negotiations for the new contract at a protracted stalemate, the teachers went out on strike beginning March 18, 1974. On April 2, the school district terminated all of the striking teachers and re-opened the schools with “replacement teachers” on April 8; many of these scabs quit after only one day on the job.
Although the H.E.A possessed evidence that many of the scabs were not licensed to teach in Wisconsin and appealed to the state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, Barbara Thompson, to enforce state law and cut off all state school aids to the school for each day of violation, this was not done. Due to the hundreds of teachers from outside the area, who came to Hortonville to support the strikers, some community members formed the Hortonville Vigilante Association to counter the teachers’ picket line. In August the H.E.A., an affiliate of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, filed a class action lawsuit against the school district on several grounds; the case went all the way to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, where the teachers won, but then lost on appeal in the U.S. Supreme Court. Wisconsin law was subsequently amended, however, to provide for an effective binding mediation-arbitration process to assist in resolution of impasses during public employee bargaining. Even today the state’s political picture is influenced by which side people were on of this labor dispute! [The account in Holter’s book is from “The Hortonville Teachers’ Strike, 1974,” a publication of the Wisconsin Education Association Council.]