The clock is ticking. Right before break our union finally gave up trying to work out a better deal with the district. We are now moving into the fact-finding phase of the negotiations. This process involves both sides providing all of the evidence that supports our position. A three-person panel will then make a non-binding decision. That decision can be accepted or rejected by both the district and the union. If the district rejects the decision, it can impose its last best offer. Then we will have to decide if we want to strike. If the panel finds for the district, we will probably have to accept the offer – probably eliminating the power of the union to negotiate for years to come.
It is my feeling (and others that I have talked to), that the decision will either be for us or be so unclear that both sides will claim victory. In the end I think we will strike. This reality has increased my stress, anger, and indifference. It is hard for me to do long-term planning for next semester when there is a good chance some of the lessons will not be implemented. Additionally, the district decided to pass on health care costs to the teachers, so I am paying an extra $165.00 on top of the $400.00 I already pay.
A couple months ago I wrote a letter to the superintendent and president of the board after they visited my classroom. After seeing my December pay stub with the extra money deducted, I decided to write them again. Here is that letter, followed by the superintendent’s response.
December 16 e-mail
Just so you know, you have successfully ruined my holiday season. I was counting on every penny in my December paycheck to make it through Christmas. That extra $163.00 that has been deducted this month so my family can go to the doctor, will force us to purchase fewer gifts for my 2 and 4 year old and makes the short trip to Big Bear we had planned impossible.
I wrote a letter to you weeks ago that you didn’t respond to, but this is not about the union leadership. You are attacking all of us. YOU personally make me want to leave this district and have gotten me to consider leaving teaching all together. I don’t know who you think you are leading, but the people who are actually doing the work of this district (THE TEACHERS), think your agenda is purely political and not about educating the students.
In a season that should be filled with holiday cheer, I will wonder how to make less money go further when prices have increased.
I challenge you to be fair to those who work for you.
I challenge you to respect the teachers who had dedicated their lives to students.
I challenge you to make a difference, not expand the differences between us.
As you enjoy your holiday season with your family, know in your heart that YOU are responsible for making others’ season more stressful and more difficult.
Merry Christmas from a teacher who will spend at least 20 hours of his vacation grading, lesson planning, and working in his classroom – doing the real work of education.
I received this response from the superintendent’s secretary last Friday:
Dear Mr. McDowell:
I appreciate your email dated December 16, 2005. I feel badly about increases in teacher health and welfare benefit cost. Other district unions have a contract in place and haven’t experienced that increase. I believe that the responsibility belongs with GEA leadership. GEA leadership continues to deny teachers the opportunity to vote on the ratification of a new contract. To continue to pay for teacher health and welfare increases would constitute an unfair labor practice under the collective bargaining laws of the State of California.
Hopefully, an independent fact-finding panel from the State of California will be able to help us resolve our differences. It seems GEA leadership will continue to deny teachers their right to decide their own future by not allowing teachers to vote. This is most unfortunate.
I wish you a wonderful new year. Let’s hope for labor peace and for the reestablishment of Grossmont teacher rights to exercise their democratic prerogative to vote and to determine their own future.
The problem with this letter is that it is misleading. First, the teachers (not the union leadership) have expressed disgust with the current offer (which is actually worse then previous offers). We haven’t voted because there is no reason to vote on an offer that is an insult to our profession. This is just part of the district’s plan to try paint the union as an elitist group that doesn’t actually represent the teachers. What the district doesn’t seem to get is that the union is not a few individuals, but all of the teachers.