gateway technical education association

What are your rights at work?

justceYour supervisor asks to meet with you about an incident at work—maybe HR is involved, too. You fear you might be accused of wrongdoing, reprimanded, or even fired!
What do you do?

     You should know that union members still enjoy legal rights even though GTEA’s collective bargaining rights have been weakened. It’s important for you to understand these rights so you’re prepared if an incident arises.

     First, union members have the right to union representation at any time they have reason to believe a meeting with administration could lead to discipline. Known as Weingarten Rights, these rights entitle union members to:

  • Request that a union representative be present during the investigatory meeting
  • Request that such a meeting be postponed until a union representative can attend.

     However, administration retains the right to mandate that we attend meetings, even if union representation cannot be present.
If administration insists upon questioning a union member without union representation during an investigatory meeting, then it has committed an unfair labor practice and is open for legal action.

     In the meantime, though, employees need to protect their rights. If employees find themselves unrepresented in any meeting that could lead to discipline, then they are legally entitled to remain silent at the meeting. A standard response: “If this discussion could in any way lead to my being disciplined or terminated, or affect my personal working conditions, I respectfully request that my GTEA Representative be present at the meeting. Without representation, I choose not to answer any questions.”

   In a meeting that could lead to disciplinary action where the request for representation has been denied, the employee legally cannot be disciplined by administration for refusal to respond to questioning.

     However, administration may require an employee to attend a disciplinary meeting without a union representative present. This type of meeting, held after an investigatory meeting has been completed, is one at which discipline is handed down to the employee, who is not expected to answer questions or provide additional information.

     Union members unsure of whether they need representation should consult their local rep:

Kenosha: Ellen Pedraza,;

Racine/iMet: Peter Pham,;

Elkhorn/Burlington: Lisa Packard packardlgtea;

All locations: Past President Jay Johnson, 414-699-4529 (cell) or jaypjohnson; President Suzanne Sublette, 773-206-5024 or

     While GTEA is always interested in hearing the thoughts of both dues paying and non-dues paying bargaining unit members, we cannot represent you in meetings unless you were a dues-paying member at the time of the incident leading to the investigatory meeting. This is yet another reason to join GTEA!


“If this discussion could in any way lead to my being disciplined or terminated, or affect my personal working conditions, I respectfully request that my GTEA Representative be present at the meeting. Without representation, I choose not to answer any questions.”

–Sample Weingarten statement

Message From the President


Challenge: Change your perceptions

Suzanne Sublette

Suzanne Sublette

“Hi,” said the little girl standing in the aisle of the airplane with the pink Hello Kitty roller carry-on.

     “Hi there,” I said back to her. We’d just parked at the gate, and passengers were hovering in the aisles, pulling their carry-on bags from the overhead bins. “Be careful. Don’t get hit by one of those suitcases.” I gently guided her back a step or two.

     She stepped forward again, stared at me, and asked, “Are you a Mommy?”

   “No, I’m not a Mommy.” I smiled at the official Mommy standing behind the child. I supposed it’s common for pre-school children to see 30-something women and assume we are Mommies. That’s part of schema development, my psychology colleagues would say. As children learn about the world, they group the people, places and things they encounter into understandable “boxes” or themes. As far as this little girl knew, women like me were all Mommies.

     “What are you then?” the little girl asked, confused.

   “I’m a daughter, just like you!” I replied.

   My answer did not sit well with the little girl. She continued to stare at me for a good 10 seconds.

     Suddenly, her expression shifted from friendly curiosity to brow-furrowed determination. “Wait a minute!” she exclaimed. “Are you a kid or not?”

     I could almost see the gears in her head turning. To her, a daughter was a little girl, just like her. I’d even said, “I’m a daughter, just like you!” But I didn’t have pig-tails or a bright pink Hello Kitty roller-case. I had a purse in my lap and cellphone clutched tightly in my hand. I looked like a Mommy! But since I just told her that I was “just like her,” didn’t that mean that I’d just told her I was a KID?

     “No,” I said, “I’m an adult.” Giggles ensued, the line of passengers moved forward, and the 5-year-old with the pink Hello Kitty carry-on marched away humming, apparently content with my answer.    

     I’m not sure if our conversation changed the little girl’s schema, but I know one day she will understand that all females are daughters and that not all women are Mommies. Then she will understand the world, its people, and her complex place in it a bit more fully.

     Disembarking, I mused over that conversation and realized the experience—seeing something new and being unsure of how to proceed—is common. When our schemas are challenged, we are forced to develop new schemas to account for the new experiences. I also realized how much my experiences on that trip challenged my own schemas.

     Flight 83 delivered me back home from the 2017 NEA National Leadership Summit in Orlando. In one jam-packed 72 hours, 2,000 educational union leaders from all over the country descended upon the land of oranges, Waffle Houses, and Disney images to discuss issues in our locals and states.

     Jay Johnson and I hosted a small breakout session for 15 conference attendees titled, “When Collective Bargaining All-But Disappears: Higher Education Organizing in Wisconsin Post Act 10.” We weren’t told ahead of time who had registered for our session, and given that we were on the schedule for Sunday morning at 8 a.m. (the last day of the conference), we thought nobody would show.

     We were wrong.

     Our small room was full. We went around the room and had folks introduce themselves. Boy, were we surprised by who we had!

     Of the 15 attendees, five were K-12 educators from Iowa who came for one reason: They wanted to know “what will happen to us now” that the Iowa Legislature just enacted a clone of Act 10.

     Fearful and apprehensive, but also defiantly speaking of upcoming court challenges, the Iowans wanted to know “how we managed to stay so successful for five years.” (Schema Challenge #1: Huh? Successful? They think we’re awesome? I mean, we lost 95% of our bargaining rights!)

     Another attendee was a K-8 online charter school union president. Yes, you read that right: an online charter school. (Schema Challenge #2: Aren’t charter schools the enemy? Isn’t online school a faddish, weirdo thing we hope goes away? Why are THEY here?)

     Another attendee introduced herself as the chief bargainer for the teachers contracted with the military to teach children on U.S. military bases around the world. (Schema Challenge #3: You mean those are real teachers on army bases? Doesn’t the U.S. government pay all of their room and board? What have they got to complain about?)

     The list goes on. But the important take-away is that what we think about our union, our organization, and what can and cannot be done or sought, is limited only by our experience and unwillingness to see other possibilities.

     Yes, given that GTEA recertifies, we will again seek a CPI-base wage increase for all bargaining unit members. (This year, CPI is 1.26%- 10 times greater than last year!) This is right now part of what we do and who we are. But that’s not all we do. That’s not all we are. And it’s most certainly not all we are capable of doing!

     We can do more than bargain with the College. We can work to address workplace problems. We can advise and support employees who are having issues with administration. We can work with other groups—union and non-union—to resist trends that work against fair pay and equitable workplaces.

     We can run projects both inside and outside the college. (Twice we arranged Affordable Care Act registration tables on campus so students could learn about their healthcare options.) We can collaborate with our kindred locals within Wisconsin and across the country. We can tell the Wisconsin story to all who will listen.

   We can do more. We can be more.

     GTEA is not a group of 15 council members. It is a large group of instructors, counselors, advisors, librarians and lab techs: We are you. You are us. We are the same.

     We are Labor.

     It’s my sincere hope that we can all revise our schemas and understand the inherent power our bargaining unit possesses—power that transcends our ability to simply seek a yearly base wage increase. We bargain one day a year. But we organize and advocate for Labor—our Labor and that belonging to others—and all other issues related to Labor 365 days a year.

     That is what GTEA does and will do in the future.

     So what can YOU do?

     Here are three critical steps you can take:

     First, support GTEA by voting YES to recertify come April.

     Second, if not presently a member, join GTEA.
Members’ dues support GTEA’s efforts at the local, state and national levels, and together, our funds build bridges of opportunity for outreach and growth.

     Third, GET INVOLVED!  GTEA will hold elections for the upcoming 2017-2018 year in June. Consider running for a Council position. Or consider working with GTEA’s Council on issues that we all care about. Together, we can work with like-minded community organizations to organize a march or hold a clothing or food drive for the holiday season.    

     Spread your wings with us! What about organizing a brown bag discussion group related to issues affecting our students? Or perhaps you’re interested in attending a regional, state or national meeting with our Labor colleagues. Got another idea? Let’s talk about it!

     Whether you are a Mommy, Daughter, Son, or Daddy, revise your schema. Understand that GTEA is our collective voice and vehicle for action.

     We are ALL Labor.

In Solidarity,


Suzanne Sublette has been an instructor of Sociology at Gateway for five years. She is also a member-at-large for the National Council of Higher Education.

GTEA AWARDS $500 Scholarship

GTEA awards another $500 scholarship

     Do you know that GTEA sponsors educational scholarships through the Gateway Foundation? 

     GTEA funds $500 scholarships for continuing students. Eligibility includes children, step-children, grandchildren, and spouses of GTEA members. 

     This year’s recipient is Brett Eisch, son of GTEA member Sheri Eisch. The award was presented February 4, 2017, at the annual Gateway Foundation scholarship ceremony.

     Other recent GTEA scholarship recipients include family members of Sharon Nelson, Alysia Ruiz, Steve Zambo, and Rosalva Santana.

      Application for the GTEA Continuing Student Scholarship process is part of the Gateway Foundation’s single electronic scholarship application form. Based on the applicant’s answers, the system matches the student to the GTEA Scholarship and to any other scholarship for which the student is eligible. Applications are accepted annually during the fall term.

     GTEA has offered educational scholarships to family members since 1994.

Potential Employee Paycheck Issue

Dear GTEA Members-

It has just come to the Council’s attention that the college has engaged in potentially illegal actions regarding employee paychecks.

In at least two instances, the college has rescinded the paychecks of employees for “overpayment.”  Each case has been different, and the specifics need to be kept confidential.  What I can comment on is that in each case, the college has stopped the paychecks of employees from being processed. 

Understand that this process is potentially illegal.  Public employers can rescind employee earnings for overpayment, but work currently being performed MUST be paid out within 31 days.  [This is why typical employer practice regarding employee overpayment includes a repayment plan that slowly recaptures the employer’s loss over time in order to:
1. avoid labor law violations and
2. maintain ethics. 
At the very least, employees should be placed on a repayment plan.

 GTEA has the power to challenge this on behalf of dues-paying members (this is not something we do for folks who are NOT dues paying members).  

We are concerned that other employees are having entire paychecks rescinded

If you have been the victim of this- for any reason- please contactGTEA’s PResident, Ms. Suzanne Sublette,  or another GTEA representative IMMEDIATELY. 


Suzanne G. Sublette, PhD
President- Gateway Technical Education Association
Member-at-Large- National Council of Higher Education



I’m Ted Kraig, the Regional Director from WEAC Region 7 who works with the GTEA. I work out of our Brookfield office and also represent employees at Waukesha Tech and Blackhawk Tech. I’ve spent over 20 years in the labor movement representing many different kinds of employees including: teachers, nurses and now college faculty. I help local associations and individual members in many different areas including enforcing legal rights, organizing for better compensation and teaching conditions, and assuring fair treatment in disciplinary and performance matters. Never hesitate to contact me if you have questions or concerns.
I can be reached at or (262) 751-2863.”

President’s Update

GTEA Officers continue to engage in efforts to expand reach and influence.

Jay Johnson and I submitted a conference proposal to the NEA’s upcoming National Leadership Summit.  We received notice of approval on October 1!  The presentation is entitled What Happens When Collective Bargaining All But Disappears:  Trials and Triumphs in Higher Education Organizing Post-Act 10.  This presentation and round-table discussion will take place over February 24-26, 2017 in Orlando, Florida.

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The NEA has opened RFP’s for the annual Higher Education Conference.  This year, the conference will convene in Dallas, Texas over March 17-19.  I will attend with NCHE regardless, but we are encouraged to submit a conference proposal.  Expenses and conference registration fees will be paid by the NEA for one presenter per accepted proposal.  The theme of the conference is Unite, Inspire, Lead:  Strengthening Bridges to Opportunities.  All RFP’s must relate to the NEA’s Leadership Competencies and/or Organizational Priorities.  See NEA’s site  for details.  The deadline for RFP submission is November 17, 2016.  I strongly encourage folks to attend this conference!

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On behalf of Region 7 and GTEA, Ted Kraig attended the October meeting of the joint AFT/NEA Technical College locals in Wausau on October 8.  GTEA has offered to plan and host the next joint meeting- tentatively planned for January, 2017.

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During the October 16 NCHE conference call, I asked for and was granted permission to lead the taskforce on developing and implementing the Friends of Higher Education Award.  I am awaiting notice of any specific protocols we must follow and have requested that we change the award title to Friends of Higher Education and Labor.  The award will be given to a member of Congress who has a history of – and commitment to – proposing and supporting legislation that supports higher education, labor organizing, and collective bargaining.  I am charged with developing a “short list” of legislators, and the NCE Executive Committee will vote and select the awardee from the short list. We will ask the awardee to create a video for Higher Education NEA members as well as attend the NEA Higher Education Conference in Dallas to accept.  We are also deciding whether we can create a “red carpet” event (ceremony and cocktail hour, with press) for the Congressperson at NEA Headquarters in DC in Spring 2017.

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I’ve begun to work on a Fair Compensation Model that the “Group of 100” will later collectively present to administration.

GTEA President
Suzanne Sublette © 2014 Frontier Theme