Bargaining Brief 5/24/17

District No-Shows Today’s Negotiations

A Message From Your Bargaining Chair:

Dear Colleagues,

While your Bargaining Team came ready to begin another attempt to collaboratively resolve our contract negotiations, we must report that the District chose not to attend bargaining today.   In addition, our team has indications that District leadership is preparing to move out of the Interest Based Bargaining (IBB) process and will call for mediation.  PAT is deeply disappointed that after nearly two years of attempting to find a collaborative way to address the issues that are critical to teachers and students, the District appears ready to walk away and return to doing business in a way that creates constant conflict.

During negotiations over the past year and a half, members of the District team have often said things that led us to believe that there was a genuine interest in changing the PAT – District relationship to one in which mutual interests would be actively pursued and points of contention could be collaboratively resolved.  We remained hopeful until the District used its administrative power to take unilateral action.  Unfortunately, either because of the chaos caused by the tremendous turmoil in District leadership, or because of an intentional strategy, the District’s actions over the last several months have been diametrically opposed to their words.  Some of the most egregious actions of the District were made clear in PAT President Suzanne Cohen’s comments at last night’s Board Meeting.  She informed the PPS Board that we are filing a collection of four Unfair Labor Practice Charges (ULPs) with the Oregon Employment Relations Board (ERB).  District leadership has forced us to take this legal action because they are imposing terms of their proposal before they are settled in bargaining, and astoundingly, because they have made proposals that violate state law.  The ULP includes objections to the following actions of the District:

  • imposing a school-calendar that violates Workyear Article 5.2 by not returning to a 190-day calendar to avoid layoffs (the District is choosing to eliminate dozens of classroom teachers while simultaneously adding 2 days to the contract school year),
  • making cuts to High School staff ignoring Appendix F on High School Workload (dozens of FTE will be cut from HS while the District insists that it must still maintain full services at HS with the reduced staff),
  • ignoring the current MOU on Snow Days claiming that teachers must make up an unlimited number of snow days without compensation (a clear departure from the clear contract language and all past practice).

Actions speak louder than words.  The District team has been stepping on our toes in bargaining for months, but in hopes that we could work through it, we persisted.   The District’s unilateral imposition of their own will on issues around workload that are central to this negotiation are a stab in the back that cannot go unanswered.  Now, they have chosen to walk away altogether.  Your Bargaining Team remains at the table, ready to continue the hard work of achieving a fair contract.  We are going to need you to join us in making it clear to the District leadership that their current strategy will only lead to a fight. 

The central issues at stake go right to the heart of our ability to remain in the teaching profession: the District wants to eliminate key provisions of our workload protection language that will allow them to vastly increase class size at all levels, increase case-loads with no limits, and impose virtually unlimited new initiatives on all educators.  District leadership is looking into the future and foreseeing continued budget problems.  The question is, will we allow the District to pass the cost of the state’s perpetual underfunding of schools directly on to educators and students?  Your Bargaining Team is saying a resounding HELL NO!!   

It is our sincere hope that District Leadership will come to recognize that it is not a sustainable strategy to balance budgets on the backs of teachers, because not only is it fundamentally unjust, it is ultimately to the detriment of our students.  We will stay at the table ready to negotiate but not to capitulate.  In the mean-time, we are only strong when our collective voice is heard.  We urge all our members to help ORGANIZE your worksite; we must be fully prepared for a fight if the District leaves us no other options.  

In Solidarity,

Steve Lancaster

Bargaining Chair