By Livia Gershon
For more than 20 years, Rachel Schlueter had been a teacher in the Milwaukee public school system, and—like all her colleagues—a member of the teacher's union.
"I paid my dues, and if I had a problem, I would call the union, so usually I really had very little contact," she said.
That was before 2011, when the Wisconsin Legislature passed Act 10, Republican governor Scott Walker's plan to drastically reduce the power of the state's public sector unions and reduce the budgets for public schools. Because of Act 10, Schlueter said, her take-home pay dropped by $8,000 thanks to her being required to make increased contributions to her health and retirement benefits. But it also made her realize how important fighting for their union was. Suddenly she was going to rallies, spending whole days at the state house waiting to testify before committees, and meeting a whole new group of activist teacher friends on Facebook. When there was a proposal to replace many Milwaukee schools with charters—something she believed would hurt the city's students—she and her new friends beat it back.
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