FREEDOM FIGHTER: Kristi Lacroix, the former teacher who stood up for Wisconsin’s Act 10, is leading membership efforts for a non-union teachers association.
By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON, Wis. — Kristi Lacroix still is the unofficial voice of Wisconsin educators fed up with Wisconsin’s once all-controlling teachers union.
Lacroix, as a teacher at Kenosha’s Lakeview Technology Academy, was one of the relatively few educators who stood up for Gov. Scott Walker’s controversial public-sector collective bargaining reforms known as Act 10. Her support cost her during the height of big labor’s unprecedented but failed campaign to recall Walker in 2012.
Her job was threatened through an online movement billed as “Fire Kristi” in which some of her sharpest attackers pledged to ruin her career, her reputation, her life.
Lacroix has survived the slings and arrows of Act 10 opponents. She left the classroom last year to take a position as membership director for the Wisconsin branch of the American Association of Educators, which provides liability insurance and professional resources for educators, without collective bargaining and without political lobbying.
She’s traveling the state these days, working on grants and scholarships and letting teachers know that “there are alternatives and options as far as professional associations.”
In short, you don’t have to be in the Wisconsin Education Association Council to have a voice in your profession.
Lacroix says the American Association of Educators is the largest and fastest-growing teacher representative organization in the nation.
“We are on track to hit our goal of about 1,000 members this year” in Wisconsin, she said.
The association is a David to the Goliath WEAC, and Wisconsin may be fertile ground for disaffected teachers.
WEAC has lost about a third of its approximately 98,000 members since the implementation of Act 10 in 2011, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The collective bargaining reforms not only limited negotiations to wages, up to the rate of inflation, the law ended forced union due collections on those who decline representation. Act 10 also requires the unions hold recertification votes each year.
Lacroix says Act 10 changed everything.
While she doesn’t necessarily see an exodus of teachers from unions to nonunion associations, she is hearing a change in the conversation among teachers three years after Act 10 went into effect. Gone, for the most part, are the screaming protesters who packed the state Capitol tens-of-thousands strong declaring the sky would fall if the collective-bargaining reform proposals became law.
“What we have noticed more of our teachers saying is the world hasn’t ended since Act 10,” Lacroix said. “We’re seeing more and more educators saying, ‘I can exist in this world without a union.”
The monopoly is starting to crumble.
Officials from the American Association of Educators could not be reached for commen.
Meanwhile, Lacroix, meanwhile, has won a major battle on behalf of Act 10.
The Kenosha school board last month nullified a collective-bargaining agreement that led to a lawsuit against the district.
The board rescinded the agreement with the Kenosha Education Association as part of a settlement with the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
The two groups charged that the school district violated Act 10 by entering into collective bargaining with the teachers’ union.
The district must also pay $10,500 in attorney fees to the Institute and the Legal Defense Foundation, which sued on behalf Lacroix and Carrie Ann Glembocki, a teacher at Lakeview Technology Academy.
“They shouldn’t have done it. The law is the law,” Lacroix said of the School Board.
Again, Lacroix was in the crosshairs of the teachers union. But this time, she said she heard from supportive educators, too.
“I was receiving emails from teachers who were thanking me,” she said.
Lacroix said her critics are under the mistaken impression that she is out to destroy unions.
“I am not. I am out to make sure they are accountable,” the former teacher said.