Milwaukee, WI - Knock, knock. “Who’s there?” “Oh, hello Mr. Director, we have a letter and a message for you”.
That’s just the scenario two Milwaukee Public School Board Directors faced on Wednesday night. Milwaukee teachers found out recently that the School Board had requested Superintendent Gregory Thornton not negotiate with Milwaukee educators under Act 10, in spite of the recently stayed Colas court decision. As a result, Milwaukee teachers have bombarded School Board Directors with emails, phone calls, and now door knocks with the Overpass Light Brigade to get the Board to reconsider their directive Thursday night at the next full-Board meeting.
The LED lighted letters are passed out before being staged and walked to the first School Board member’s home.
The first School Board member to be visited Wednesday night was Claire Zautke. Teachers held a “REAL LEADERS NEGOTIATE” message across the street from her house, while educator Amy Mizialko knocked on the front door with a letter. The letter stated:
Dear Director Claire Zautke,
As concerned residents of Milwaukee, we understand that strong public schools are vital to the health and well-being of our city. We believe that in order to accomplish that, we need to treat the people that work in our schools with respect and dignity. A significant move towards that would be for the Milwaukee School Board to direct administration to begin negotiations with MPS employees.
We implore your leadership at this critical time and recognize that working conditions of our schools are not separated from our students’ learning conditions but rather are one in the same. Please support our students and our teachers and do the right thing.
Tonight’s “Holders of the Light”
(parents, teachers, students, and members of the community)
School Board member Claire Zautke waves to the Holders of the Light and screams hello before reading the group’s letter to her.
Zautke waved to the Holders, screamed, “Hello Overpass Light Brigade,” and read the letter. She then walked across the street to speak to the assembled group of teachers. She explained that the Board would be revisiting the issue on Thursday night and could not speak directly about it. The interaction was very civil and although Zautke never did really say whether she would support negotiations she did seem to respect the fact that teachers took the time to visit her with their peaceful and enlightening message.
This message was held across the street from School Board member Claire Zautke’s home.
Zautke came out of her house and engaged the group and said she would make sure the issue is discussed at Thursday’s board meeting.
Next, the brigade moved farther south to Bay View. There they unpacked and staged a new message “RESPECT TEACHERS” on Superior Street before parading it to School Board member Terry Falk’s house. Again, the message was placed prominently across the street and this time two teachers knocked on the door to deliver the letter and simultaneously the lighted message. Falk opened the door and said hello to everyone saying he knew exactly why they were there. He said he would make sure the issue would be addressed and that it was important that teachers show up and make their voice heard because otherwise nobody thinks it’s an issue of importance. Falk definitely seemed supportive of teachers.
Milwaukee educators Michele Hilbert and Stephanie Schneider delivered the group’s letter and pointed out the brigade’s message to Board member Terry Falk.
Falk now sees the message in front of him across the street.
“RESPECT TEACHERS” was the second message held Wednesday night at School Board Director Terry Falk’s home.
Falk and his wife hung out with the group for about ten minutes shaking the hands of each letter Holder and asking what school they work at. The brigade finally picked up their message and headed back to Superior Street satisfied with engaging both Board members in a positive and civil discussion about the importance of respecting educators and allowing them to negotiate a contract. Tomorrow night’s full board meeting will be crucial in whether teachers are able to convince the board to negotiate, so turnout should be high. Scott Walker’s union-busting Act 10 law may have aimed to strip collective bargaining but it certainly hasn’t killed the power of collective action.
Falk ponders the group’s message.
View more photos from the action here.