Early AM Engine-Starter: Guess the Costs of Milwaukee School District's Legal Defense Over an 'Equal Rights' Drug

On Monday, in a story I will link after the jump, the Associated Press reported that on March 1 the  Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association (MTEA) dropped a lawsuit it initiated last year over the school district's refusal five years earlier to cover a prescription drug the union described as "an issue of discrimination, of equal rights for all our members” (that link will also appear after the jump).

So the questions submitted for our readers to ponder are these:

1) What drug was involved?

2) How much has the district spent defending itself against the lawsuit?

No fair Googling. Answers follow.

Here they are (HT to an e-mailer):

1) The drug in question, as reported by the AP, is Viagra. But despite the ongoing standoff in the Badger State over collective bargaining and union demands, the wire service apparently didn't believe that this story was worthy of national attention. A search on "Viagra" at the AP's main site returns no results.

2) The cost of defending against the lawsuit, according to PostCrescent.com columnist Bob Kowalczyk, is almost $1 million:

The Walker camp counters that if existing collective bargaining is allowed to continue, the state will continue to be subjected to expenses such as the almost $1 million cost to defend a lawsuit brought by the union because their current health plan excluded Viagra. Or that local school districts would not have the tools needed to operate their districts in the wake of decreasing revenues. These decreasing revenues with the current collective bargaining have forced many school districts into the ridiculous position of firing teachers to balance the budget, but giving a raise to the teachers who remain.

Good luck finding the cited cost figure elsewhere in the establishment press -- and heaven knows how much dues money the union spent in its now-abandoned effort. 

Two weeks ago, Kenneth Spence at the Heritage Foundation reported some, uh, hard to fathom items about the litigation (links were in original):

In 2002, through collective bargaining, MTEA won the inclusion of Viagra in its members’ health plans, and by 2004, 10% of union membership (which isn’t a male-dominated set) was subscribing to the benefit — at a cost of more than $200,000 per year to the Milwaukee school district.  Not until 2005 was the school district finally able to convince an arbitrator to drop the coverage.


Last year, while the school district faced a $10 million dollar budget shortfall, the MTEA decided it was time to revisit those drug benefits and filed a lawsuit demanding their reintroduction to union health plans—at a projected cost of $786,000 in 2010.


It may look like the union trying to raise costs for taxpayers, but MTEA spokeswoman Kristin Collett insists that it’s really a matter of fundamental rights:  “this is an issue of discrimination, of equal rights for all our members.”  (Lest any private sector employee forget that Viagra is a right.)


The MTEA represents more than 10,000 teachers and administrators in Milwaukee and has an annual budget of millions of dollars.  Its priority was not, however, saving the jobs of the 400 teachers laid off because of a budget hole.  Instead, the union pursued an opportunity to flex its muscles under the guise of defending a civil right — just as protestors are now.


All of this makes MTEA president Mike Langyel’s recent attack on Governor Walker’s budget rescue plan sound rather hollow ...

I would suggest that describing Langyel's position as "limp" would be more appropriate in the circumstances.

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