Sebring v. MPS
Case Name: Sebring v. Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS)
Type of Case: First Amendment
Court: Milwaukee County Circuit Court
Filed On: July 8, 2021
Current Status: The Milwaukee Public School Board amended their union-leave policy in December 2021. As a result, WILL stipulated to a dismissal of the case.
MPS Amends Union-Leave Policy After WILL Lawsuit
February 8, 2022 | The Milwaukee Public School Board voted to amend a union leave policy, subject of a lawsuit from the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL), to make clear that employees may only use such time for activities that are politically and ideologically “view-point neutral.”
WILL SUES MPS FOR UNCONSTITUTIONAL UNION LEAVE POLICY
July 8, 2021 | WILL filed a lawsuit in Milwaukee County Circuit Court on behalf of a Milwaukee resident challenging a Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) union leave policy.
MPS POLICY PAYS PUBLIC EMPLOYEES TO WORK FOR TEACHERS UNIONS
January 28, 2021 | WILL filed a Notice of Claim, Thursday, on behalf of a Milwaukee resident challenging a Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) union leave policy.This policy amounts to compelled speech because it forces Milwaukee taxpayers to subsidize labor union activities, which includes working on elections and lobbying.
The Lawsuit: The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) filed a lawsuit in Milwaukee County Circuit Court on behalf of a Milwaukee resident challenging a Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) union leave policy. Under this policy, MPS pays public employees full wages and benefits to engage in union-related activities instead of the jobs they were hired for at the school district. This policy amounts to compelled speech because it forces Milwaukee taxpayers to subsidize labor union activities. The policy also violates the Constitution’s requirement that all spending be for a public purpose and not for the benefit of a private entity, like a labor union.
Background: Milwaukee Public Schools adopted a union leave policy (page 49) that permits MPS employees to use at least ten days per fiscal year for paid union leave. Any MPS employee using union leave is working solely as a “representative” of a labor union for the purpose of participating in “union-related activities.” And under the MPS union leave policy, MPS employees are not restricted from engaging in a variety of political activities including advancing the direct interests of the public employee unions.
The United States Supreme Court recently affirmed in Janus v. AFSCME that “[c]ompelling a person to subsidize the speech of other private speakers raises similar First Amendment concerns.” And the Wisconsin Constitution recognizes that the freedom of speech “includes both the right to speak freely and the right to refrain from speaking at all.” The MPS union leave policy amounts to taxpayers subsidizing the speech and activities of labor unions – a form of unconstitutional compelled speech.
During the 2017, 2018, and 2019 school years, MPS spent thousands of dollars paying employees for hundreds of hours working on behalf of labor unions for the labor unions’ private purposes.
WILL filed a Notice of Claim in January warning MPS that the union leave policy would result in a lawsuit. A lawsuit was then filed on July 8, 2021.
Current Status: On December 16, 2021 the Milwaukee Public School Board amended the policy to make clear that “Permissible union-related activities for which release time may be offered only include activities that are politically and ideologically ‘view point neutral.’” Further, such activities “must also relate to the functions of the District.” The policy also adds some clarity to how such leave is to be requested.
As a result of the adoption of this policy, WILL stipulated to a dismissal of the case.
- WILL’s Complaint, July 8, 2021
- Notice of Claim, January 28, 2021
- Conservative group kicks off legal fight over MPS union leave policy, CBS58, January 28, 2021
- A former county supervisor is suing MPS over allowing paid leave for a union activity, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, July 8, 2021
- WILL Sues Milwaukee Public Schools Over Union Leave Policy, Wisconsin Public Radio, July 9, 2021