Daily Archives: January 12, 2013

Wisconsin labor fight heats up

Public school teachers filed a class action against a public school district that claims it can cut their pay at will and fine them up to $2,500 if they don’t sign their contracts on time.

The class action, which has a putative class size of 230 teachers, alleges that the school district’s contracts have illegal and unenforceable provisions.  For example, the contract allows

  1. The district to fire or reduced the pay and benefits of tenured teachers for vague and undefined reasons;
  2. The district can fine tenured teachers $1,000 to $2,500 if they don’t sign the contract by the time the school district wants it, or seek release from the contract.

The class action further claims:

  • The 2012-13 contracts illegally allow the district to “make salary adjustments ‘due to disciplinary action and/or changes in full-time equivalency warranted by the district,'” in violation of Wis. Stat. § 118.21;
  • The contracts illegally allow the district to cut salary and benefits “if in the sole discretion of the district, the educator fails to meet the expectations referenced in the contract, acts in a manner that is not in the best interests of the district’s students, fails to abide by the terms of the Employee Handbook, fails to carry out the duties and responsibilities of the job description, or if the district decides to reduce the professional staff for financial or other lawful reasons,” in violation of Wis. Stat. § 118.21, § 118.21, and state contract law; and
  • The contracts illegally set up “a liquidated damages schedule that begins assessing damages on June 1,” with fines beginning at $1,000, escalating to 2,500, for failing to sign contracts by June 15, or seeking release from contract; this “unlawfully assesses damages to teachers seeking release from their contracts prior to the statutory date for acceptance.”

The contracts state “that failure to return a signed contract … would result in non-renewal of the teacher’s contract,” the teachers say: “A stigma is attached to being non-renewed by a school district, as it suggests that a teacher’s employment was not continued for performance reasons or misconduct.”

The class cites violation of Wisconsin Statute 118.21, under which the school district must fix teachers’ wages, violation of Wisconsin Statute 118.22, under which the school district must set the contract acceptance date at June 15, and violation of Wisconsin Statute 118.23, under which it can terminate permanent only employees for good cause.

via Courthouse News Service.

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Wireless networks and the FCC

The Federal Communication Commission has proposed the creation of the Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) H Block, which would extend the Personal Communications Services (PCS) band by 10 megahertz, for flexible use. The PCS is heavily used by Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile, the nations big four providers, as well as their rural counterparts.

The additional spectrum is meant to help maintain the speed and capacity of the nations wireless networks amid the unprecedented demand for mobile service.

If approved, the new rule would mark the FCCs first step in implementing a Congressional directive in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, more widely known as the “payroll tax cut.”  The act calls for an establishment of a national public safety broadband network, which will expand high-speed wireless broadband and give better access to first responders, such as fire and police, in an emergency.

“Wireless broadband is a key component of economic growth, job creation and global competitiveness because consumers are increasingly using wireless broadband services to assist them in their everyday lives,” the FCC said in its bandwidth proposal.

The FCC plans to grant new initial licenses for the 1915-1920 MHz and 1995-2000 MHz bands, known as the lower H block and the upper H block, respectively. A system of competitive bidding will determine who is granted the commercial use licenses.

The plan to extend the bandwidth includes licensing the H block as paired five-megahertz blocks, with the upper block used for high-power base stations and the lower block for mobile and low power fixed operations. The licensing will also be based on a geographic and economic area scheme.

“We seek to adopt a service area size for the H Block that meets several statutory goals,” the FCC said in its bandwidth proposal. “These include facilitating access to spectrum by both small and large providers, providing for the efficient use of the spectrum, encouraging deployment of wireless broadband services to consumers, especially those in rural areas, and promoting investment in and rapid deployment of new technologies and services consistent with our obligations under section 309j of the Communications Act.”

via Courthouse News Service.

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