FROM THE TABLE
Friday, September 7, 2012
On Thursday, September 6, 2012 MBUTA reached a tentative two-year agreement with MBUSD in impasse mediation proceedings. The terms of this agreement stipulate a three percent (3%) salary schedule increase for 2012-13, retroactive to July 1, 2012, which will stay on the schedule unless there is a drastic reduction in the funded base revenue limit. In addition, the conditions of our current health and welfare benefits package will be maintained. Extra duty pay has been increased by 19.4 percent from $31.83 to $38.00 per hour. The parties agreed to reopen negotiations for 2013-2014 on the subjects of salary, health and welfare benefits, elementary teacher preparation time, school calendar for 2014-15, and one additional item by each party.
MBUTA and the District agreed to continue in impasse mediation to discuss changes in the certificated evaluation process for 2013-14. Please click the link for specifics of the Tentative Agreement .
The Bargaining Team
“I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it had ceased to be one.” - Mark Twain
The above quote by Mark Twain seems to sum up the MBUSD Administration’s attitude toward negotiations. Seemingly squandering an opportunity to advance morale among staff and continue to improve student achievement, the MBUSD Administration used bullying, threats and, ultimately, an apparently pre-planned move to impasse to begin the process of trying to impose a settlement on our members.
At the end of the school year, we were notified by Assistant Superintendent Rick Bagley of the Administration’s demand that negotiations continue during the summer though we had informed the District of our intention to NOT negotiate in the summer at the first session, consistent with ALL past practice. Citing a decision made by PERB over a quarter century ago mandating summer negotiations, the Administration seemed to imply a threat to charge MBUTA with “bargaining in bad faith” unless we agreed to meet. Facing what appeared to be threats, we decided to take the unprecedented step of agreeing to meet in the afternoon of Friday, July 6th and we prepared a serious response to the Administration’s last “comprehensive” proposal.
We offered two proposals that differed primarily in the length of the agreement. The key components of our first option included a three year agreement, planning time for all K-5 instructors, maintenance of the 80/20 split on benefits and a 10% salary adjustment spaced over those three years. The second option included all of the preceding proposals, but proposed a one year agreement with a 9% salary adjustment. We agreed to retain current contractual language in areas we had previously asked for changes and agreed to continue to discuss MBUSD’s desire for evaluation changes once we received all supporting documents referenced in their proposal. In short, it was a serious offer that showed significant movement on our part in a number of areas, signaling a desire to come to an agreement. Ours was a proposal that would have begun to right the financial ship of our members while ensuring the continuing financial health of the District.
After caucusing for an hour, the District came back with a response that showed contempt for our teachers and a lack of serious intent to bargain. They IGNORED our proposal to build planning time into the day of our K-5 members. They stuck to their DANGEROUS ALTERATION of the 80/20 split in benefits. The only movement they made from previous proposals was to change the two proposed mandatory work days into one voluntary day and apply ½ of 1% to the 2% bonus previously offered. Again, they offered no new money on the salary schedule, arguing that they don’t have the money (they are sitting on 43% unrestricted reserves, by their own December 2011 accounting, among the largest in the State and built up to that level by denying you a raise for five years) and that financial uncertainties preclude them from providing ANY on-the-schedule adjustment.
MBUTA caucused for 15 minutes and verbally proposed that the teachers and District jointly develop triggering mechanisms that could help lessen or remove any perceived financial risk. It was summarily rejected by the Administration. When our budgetary analysis was challenged by Deputy Superintendent Bagley, we offered to stay into the night to hear their rationale for their budget analysis. This was rejected, though previously Mr. Bagley had said they were prepared to meet until 9:00 pm. We offered to meet in additional negotiating sessions on any Saturday or Sunday in July in order to make serious and substantive proposals and progress. This was rejected out of hand. We asked them to reconcile their claim of imminent fiscal doom with their new spending on iPads, associated infrastructure, upkeep, substantially larger appropriations for books and supplies, and outrageous raises for top level administrators. They were non-responsive. Instead, they declared their offer to be their “LAST, BEST and FINAL.” They invited us to jointly declare impasse, beginning a process that could allow them to unilaterally IMPOSE this offer on our members. Needless to say, we rejected that invitation.
We came into this session with a proposal showing substantial movement. We agreed to THEIR request for a three year deal. We agreed to drop our proposed language in three separate articles of the Contract. We altered our salary proposal to spread out any adjustment over 3 years. We agreed to continue to talk about alterations in the evaluation process, despite the fact it is a low priority for our members. There has been NO COMPARABLE MOVEMENT ON ANY ISSUE ON THEIR PART. We continue to believe that a mutually acceptable agreement NEGOTIATED AT THE TABLE is possible. They, now, have shown their hand. They would rather IMPOSE their proposals on us rather than come to a NEGOTIATED agreement. They think they are in the driver’s seat. They doubt our commitment to ourselves and our families. They believe we are blind to their inconsistent claims of poverty while spending millions of dollars in new money on gadgets and administrators’ salaries all the while sitting on some of the largest reserves in California. They don’t believe in our power as a UNION. If an agreement is to be reached, each one of us will need to show that we are committed, informed, and powerful. Though opportunity may be slipping from their hands, let’s not let it slip from ours!
The Bargaining Team
Tuesday, June 13, 2012
On June 11, 2012, your MBUTA Negotiating Team met with representatives from MBUSD. We were asked by the District to respond to their “Comprehensive Proposal” (see previous “From the Table” for details) presented at the previous bargaining session.
We continue to believe that this District can afford to offer a salary adjustment that will BEGIN the process of making up for 10 disastrous years for our families and we want that adjustment placed ON the salary schedule. Our proposal reflected that. Additionally, we proposed that the 80/20 split on benefits be maintained. We asked that elementary PE positions be restored and that a planning period be built into the schedule for elementary teachers. Also, we asked for changes in language to offer clarified protections to our members in cases of student assaults and unwarranted statements placed in personnel files by the administration. Finally, we offered to accept the District’s cash payment to retirees IF they would de-link it from an acceptance of their drastically altered evaluation proposal.
After an over two hour caucus, the District representatives returned proposing almost no movement on any of the above issues. They continued to offer no permanent adjustment to your salary and did not budge from their previous offer. They rejected out of hand any restoration of PE instructors at the elementary schools. Although they indicated a willingness to look at the issue of planning time for elementary instructors, they presented no proposal to move in that direction. They rejected out of hand our proposals to offer greater clarity in areas of workplace safety and in protection against administrative overreach, not even offering to counter our proposed language. Finally, they categorically refused to offer the pittance they put forward for our prospective retirees unless it was linked to the radical alteration of our evaluation procedure. They did agree to maintain the 80/20 split for one more year BUT that split would be pegged to the lowest priced offering in any category (single, couple, family) rather than the United Healthcare HMO, allowing them to offer a “cut rate” program that destroys your benefits and obligates them to pay only 80% of that program’s costs, saddling you with an enormous increase in your health and welfare benefits. That probability, coupled with their refusal to entertain an “on-the-schedule” salary adjustment, means with certainty that the pace of erosion of your salary would be accelerated.
In discussions, though, we did learn important information, directly confirming the facts we have been providing you through this entire process. The District, although never arguing it didn’t have extraordinary budgetary reserves, confirmed that those unrestricted reserves represent 25% of the District’s budget, just as we’ve said from the start. (Their reserves jump to more than 47% when you look at other funds besides the General Fund that could be used for salary and benefits.) That is among the largest reserves in the State and over double what the State suggests districts possess to be safe in these difficult budgetary times. We also learned that, just as we uncovered, the District has, for the past several years, been using budgetary tricks and accounting gimmickry to claim poverty, deny you COLA and build its reserves. After admitting this, the current administration claimed, of course, that they would never use such chicanery. We’ve heard this tune before and we won’t fall for it.
The Superintendent can produce all the slick budget pronouncements he can manufacture. We have the truth on our side. When he assures you and the community that they are putting 1.5 million toward salary and benefits, we don’t see that in their proposal. More importantly, he conveniently leaves out that the offer is only ONE TIME MONEY and will not have any long term and continual impact on the financial stability of you and your family. Trust us, if the District were really putting 1.5 million dollars of new money on the salary schedule as Dr. Mathews seems to imply and commits to maintaining the status quo with benefits, we could be very close to a settlement. When he sings the praises of your efforts despite your deteriorating financial condition, he conveniently leaves out that the District he now leads has purposefully–through financial machinations and trickery–denied you the ability to keep your head above the financial waters. When he writes that you are the Board’s number one priority, NOTHING in their offers and attitude at the table reflect the veracity of that claim.
We continue to pledge to you that we will present to you and the community factual information based on our analysis of budgetary realities. We promise to try to find an agreement that begins to restore your financial and working conditions to a level that adequately reflects your efforts for the children of this community while maintaining the financial health of this District. We pledge to work tirelessly for a real compromise, but we will NOT allow your salary and benefits to continue to be eroded when the means are there to begin the process of repair.
To these ends, we have notified the District that we are no longer voluntarily waiving our right to concerted action. To achieve our reasonable goals will be difficult. The District is entrenched and intransigent, believing that you will continue to accept more of the same. It will take unprecedented work and action from every member of MBUTA for us to prevail. If, though, we are strong and united, embracing the true strength of an organized union and our pragmatic expectations, we can’t fail.
The Bargaining Team
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
At the third bargaining session on April 30, 2012, the MBUTA bargaining team delivered to district representatives an early retirement incentive proposal. This proposal asked for nearly $90,000 in cash and medical benefits to be offered as an incentive to qualified certificated personnel who chose to retire at the end of the 2011-2012 school year. The proposed source of funding for this incentive came from the federal government under its “Ed Jobs” legislation. Specifically designated to create education employment in a flexible setting, the $1.36 million received by MBUSD could have been earmarked by the school board for a retirement incentive. District representatives took the proposal to the school board.
Given the urgency of a decision, the bargaining team asked that a negotiation session be scheduled in the days immediately following the school board meeting on Wednesday, May 2, 2012. A meeting was tentatively scheduled for Friday, May 4, 2012 but it was cancelled by district representatives the day after the school board meeting, citing that additional time was necessary to develop a counter-proposal.
At the subsequent session on May 15, 2012, the district delivered a much anticipated response. Their counter-offer included a non-negotiable $15,000 incentive with no medical benefits, but only if a district proposed evaluation procedure was accepted by MBUTA. This was not only an unacceptable offer to the bargaining team and those who remain in the district; it was an insult to our retirees who have dedicated a lifetime of service to the children of this district. Given that the school board’s counter-proposal was non-negotiable, the situation forced us to withdraw our initial proposal or consider declaring impasse. With many more issues to discuss, such as salary and benefits and the restoration of elementary P.E. specialists, declaring impasse was not a viable option.
Since the district is within its right to offer a retirement incentive unilaterally, we had hoped that they would bring that offer to their employees in the following days. This hope has not been realized.
The MBUTA proposal on retirement incentive was well thought out, logical, and easily attainable within the broader objectives of both the association and the district. This proposal involved the use of truly one-time money in covering a one-time expense with tangible positive impact on the district’s budget for many years out. The district’s illogically firm stance prevented a cooperative discussion on the issue. It is the weakness of this district administration and the insolence of this school board that prevented implementation in a timely manner.
The Bargaining Team
Friday, May 18, 2012
The MBUTA Negotiating Team met for the fifth time with representatives of MBUSD. The District presented a “comprehensive” contract proposal. There were three main elements to this document.
1. The District presented a radically altered evaluation model that, though based on the work of a joint MBUTA/MBUSD Committee, did not represent consensus from that committee. No vote was taken to show consensus and no alternative method of achieving consensus was identified. A majority of our representative were stunned when told that the District presented this evaluation model a) at this time, while they continued to meet and b) as a completed proposal.
2. The District presented a salary offer which essentially would give our members no raise for three years. What they did propose was an “off-the-schedule” bonus equal to 2%. That money would be one-time money and would NOT be applied to the salary schedule. In addition, they offered to mandate two extra days of work and pay you for them, giving you 1% greater salary but requiring you to work more to receive it.
3. The District proposed that the 80/20 split on health benefits be scrapped for a hard cap. Though the proposed cap represented a slightly higher District contribution to your benefits package, history tells us that the increased amount may not be enough to offset this year’s expected increase let alone three years of health insurance cost increases. In short, the probable increase in health care costs would not only continue but accelerate the erosion of your salary.
The offer by the District was insulting and ignored the sacrifices our teachers have made for TEN YEARS. This District has built up UNBELIEVABLE reserves on your back and the backs of your family. By denying you a raise equal to COLA between 2002 and 2007 and by giving NO RAISE from 2007 to today, they have accumulated an unrestricted cash reserve of over 25% of their operating budget and a total reserve of over 40%. The State requires 3%, our District has mandated 5% and analysts suggest that a “safe” reserve in these economic times should total between 10% and 12%.
They have told you that you must prove your excellence according to an evaluation standard established by them but, regardless, you will continue to receive the pay and medical security of a failed instructor.
While they offer you no raise, they continue to budget millions of dollars in increased new discretionary spending for “things” while the human capital that brings value to those gadgets continues to be severely undervalued.
We had hoped for more. We had hoped for a new era of respect and recognition, ushered in by a new administration. We have been reasonable in what we have asked. We have not asked for anything this District can’t afford. We hope to come to a just conclusion at the table based on shared goals. It is clear that won’t happen until those in a decision making capacity understand that “more of the same” is no longer acceptable to our membership.
The Bargaining Team
Tuesday, March 26, 2012
The MBUTA bargaining team met with representatives from MBUSD on March 22, 2012 to discuss the contract proposals and set ground rules for negotiations. For the first time in history, this initial bargaining session was held at our SBUT consortium office in Torrance, not at the district office.
In setting the meeting norms, MBUTA proposed to alternate subsequent negotiation sessions between the district office and the SBUT office. Although the district negotiating team was not immediately amenable to this proposed parity, largely citing inconvenience, they eventually agreed to some flexibility.
Both MBUTA and the district proposed ground rules that were mainly agreeable by the parties, bar one provision related to communication, which the team felt was intended to provide the district flexibility, but placed limitations on the Association’s ability to inform the membership. The sides agreed to formulate language at the next session that binds the two parties equitably.
Although the meeting was, as a whole, positive and productive, with some reason for long-term optimism, we continue to have major differences on issues of critical concern to our membership. Your involvement in the process has already had a profound impact on the expectations the parties brought to the table. Thank you for your support!
The next bargaining session is scheduled for April 16, 2012 at the District Office from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Your MBUTA bargaining team will begin negotiations with MBUSD representatives on Thursday, March 22, 2012, at the South Bay United Teachers (SBUT) consortium office in Torrance at 1:00 pm. The team would like to thank you for all the support and encouragement we have received leading up to this initial bargaining session. We remain committed to communicating up to date information to the membership about the progress of negotiations using this “From the Table” interface of the website. Although email notifications will be sent out when updates are posted, we recommend that members check the website periodically to stay informed. Members may contact the bargaining team directly via email at email@example.com with questions or concerns.
Adam S. Geczi
Chairman, MBUTA Bargaining Team