Right-wing blogger and professional cranky old man David Blaska has filed suit against the school board, the school district and the Madison teachers union for wasting his tax dollars by signing an employment contract.
Blaska's complaint, filed by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) -- a nonprofit law firm almost wholly funded by the right-wing Bradley Foundation -- accuses the board, the district and the teachers of "unlawful collective bargaining."
Under Gov. Scott Walker's Act 10, the court filing points out, teachers and other public employees are not allowed to bargain over terms of employment, working conditions, merit pay, benefits and any other items beyond cost-of-living increases on base pay.
Blaska, "whose taxes are used to fund the school district," the complaint observes, is also filing his suit on behalf of the teachers, whose rights are being violated by their union, he claims, since they are being unlawfully represented.
In Kenosha, the same right-wing cabal, including Bradley, WILL and the National Right to Work Foundation, filed a similar suit and managed to recruit a former teacher to front for it as plaintiff.
No such luck in Madison. The right-wing groups couldn't find a teacher who felt "violated" by getting a contract. They couldn't even find a photogenic suburban mom. The folks at WILL must have looked long and hard before they finally settled on Dave "get off my lawn" Blaska.
These lawsuits are a display of pure aggression by the right-wing forces that have taken over our state.
Not content with stamping out most bargaining rights for most public employees through Act 10, they are now going after individual contracts in particular districts.
They never let up.
In Kenosha, the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity came to town and poured unheard-of out-of-state money into the local school board election, successfully ousting members who had the temerity to support the teachers' contract.
Coincidentally, just before Blaska filed his suit, Walker pointed out on the campaign trail that his opponent, Mary Burke, as a member of the Madison school board, supported the teachers' contract. Walker chastised Burke for failing to take advantage of the cost savings available to school boards under Act 10.
Also coincidentally, Walker's longtime campaign manager and political adviser Michael Grebe runs the Bradley Foundation.
Apart from political theater, the lawsuit is completely devoid of merit.
The Madison contracts were negotiated when Act 10 was on hold, under an injunction by Dane County Judge Juan Colas, who declared that the law violated the state constitution.
The Walker administration nevertheless pressed ahead with enforcement of Act 10's provisions in other districts, claiming that it assumed the unconstitutional finding only applied to the specific plaintiffs in the case, including the Madison teachers union. That infuriated Judge Colas, who held the state in contempt for ignoring his order in other districts.
But even the Walker people acknowledged that Colas' injunction had force in Madison.
Now the state Supreme Court has upheld Act 10, and those legal battles are over. But the contracts that were negotiated during the long struggle are sort of like the absentee ballots voters cast for governor while the recent legal wrangling over voter ID was going on. The right-wingers wanted to toss out absentee votes unless the voters showed up to produce photo ID after the fact.
The U.S. Supreme Court intervened and put the kibosh on voter ID in Wisconsin. In their dissent, even Justices Scalia, Alito and Thomas acknowledged that they were particularly troubled by the idea of throwing away those absentee ballots.
Likewise, contracts negotiated during the injunction on Act 10 cannot reasonably be held to be in violation of the law.
"They know perfectly well that the contracts were negotiated under Colas' order, when doing so was legal," says MTI President John Matthews. "There was nothing improper or illegal about it."
The real waste of taxpayer money, says Matthews, is the lawsuit itself: "They are making us respond to all this. It's such as a waste of money that could be used in educating children, and it causes unnecessary stress on district employees and the community."
It really tells you something about how far to the right our state has moved when the Roberts court has to intervene to defend democracy in Wisconsin.
And it says something positive about our community, which supports it teachers and its great schools, that the only person WILL could find to attack them was a bully like Dave Blaska.
Ruth Conniff is the editor of The Progressive.