FROM THE TABLE

Friday, February 12, 2016

We have been negotiating for the 2015-16 school year since December of last year. A few answers are listed below to frequently asked questions:

  1. Our current contract is NOT expired. Our contract expires June of 2016
  2. We are NOT negotiating the full contract this year—on years with re-openers only salary, benefits, and one article for MBUTA and MBUSD are up for discussion.
  3. The actual budget numbers as reported from MBUSD include several million of new money; therefore, this is a year wherein the District can afford a salary adjustment.
  4. As a result of the negotiations language from the 2014-15 agreement, a Health Benefits Subcommittee has been meeting to see if reduced District expenses for health benefits can be achieved without a loss of service to our members. This work has been communicated to site reps—ask them for details of the progress.
  5. The District is asking for language changes in article 7—Hours and Assignments. The conversation so far has been productive.
  6. MBUTA is asking for changes in the language in article 10—Complaints Regarding Unit Members.
  7. The 2016-17 Calendar is NOT part of the current discussion. Until we get a settlement for 2015-16 (the current year), we are bound to the current negotiated calendar for 2016-17 as posted on the District website

Meetings thus far

December 7this meeting was cancelled due to a bomb threat at MCHS

December 18This meeting was held at the District Office. The discussion was productive. As it was the first real session, much of the business revolved around general discussions. Data necessary to the bargaining process has been requested by MBUTA and thus far, the District has been readily forthcoming with information about the budget. Both sides seem to agree that the numbers look good for this year.

January 27The two sides met at the South Bay United Teachers (SBUT) office. The District brought forward language changes for article 7. Discussions were robust and respectful. Productive discussions also occurred around health benefits and the current and projected state of the District revenues and expenditures. It is important that both sides agree on these issues in order to come to agreement on a fair salary increment adjustment.

February 8After continued discussion of the aforementioned items, MBUTA handed the District the first proposal of this round which included language changes on Article 10 along with the addition of $3 million toward certificated salaries. We expect the District to respond to the proposal at the next scheduled meeting.

Negotiations take time and can be frustrating. Thank you for your patience. Our bargaining team will meet with the District team again on February 23. Please stay in contact with your site reps; your voice at board meetings and your involvement on committees and as leaders on your site will be needed as we get closer to making the compromises that will lead to a successful conclusion to these negotiations.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Tentative Agreement Announced For 2014-2016

On November 3, 2014, the Bargaining Team for MBUTA reached a Tentative Agreement with MBUSD for a Certificated Contract covering the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years.

The key provisions of this agreement include:

a. two-year contract with reopeners on salary and benefits for 2015-16.

b maintenance of the 80/20 benefits agreement.

c. a calendar for 2016-17 that begins the school year at approximately the same time as this year, but ends in early June.  To do this, “Ski Week” will be replaced with two three day weekends in February and the Thanksgiving holiday will be shortened.

d. an addition of 4.21% of new money to the Salary Schedule.  This money will be allotted to give those with 1-14 years of experience a 3.5% raise while those between 15 and 30 years of experience will receive a 5% raise. During the disastrous previous 10 years, the group that was impacted most severely by the lack of new money applied to the salary schedule was our most experienced teachers.  While our teachers with fewer than 15 years of experience continued to see an increase in their salary due to step/column increases, those at step 15 and higher saw no increase in their wages for much of that same period.  This fact was recognized by both sides at the table and we had the opportunity to move towards a more equitable salary schedule with this round of negotiations.  These new salary figures are fully retroactive to July of 2014 and will include increased compensation for your August PD days.

e. increase of 4.21% to hourly rate retroactive to July 1, 2014.

f. increase of 4.21% to extra duty stipends retroactive to July 1, 2014.

g. release time for the Association President of 1 Period, or its equivalent, paid for by the District to conduct Association business (Article III).

h. New language for the grievance procedure in Article IV.

i. New language for safety issues at sites in Article V.

j. Increasing the number of personal necessity days without explanation from 3 to 4.

k. addition of high school Broadcast Journalism stipend; elimination of Level VI on the stipend table (and thus upward movement of members on Level VI to Level V)

Certainly, not everyone will be happy with every element of this agreement.  That is the nature of compromise.  However, we believe it is a fair settlement for all concerned.  A general meeting will be held for MBUTA members during the coming days to explain the terms of the Agreement in more detail and to answer any questions you may have.

On behalf of the Executive Board we would like to thank Adam Geczi, Jed Rucker and Linda Hunt and Executive Director Sandra Goins for their dedication to each member.  Countless hours go into the figures and strategizing involved in negotiations and we are very lucky to have such a competent and strong team who are not afraid to speak truth to power.

The Executive Board would especially like to thank MBUTA members for your support.  We promised you that over three years we would work to raise salaries by 10%.  The salary schedule as of 2014-15 is 12.21% higher than in school year 2010-11.  We promised to provide true information and to doggedly insist on the truth from the District.  We hope you will agree that our numbers and our analysis are presented with integrity and accuracy.

None of our recent progress would be possible without your strength, tenacity and willingness to sacrifice in order to achieve what was right.  Every time we met in Rep Council, E-Board or as a Negotiating Team, we knew we had the muscle of a determined membership backing us up.  The real credit belongs to all of you!

In solidarity,

Shawn Chen MBUTA President
Lauri Gonalons, MBUTA Vice-President
Bill Fauver MBUTA Vice-President
Linda Daly MBUTA Secretary/Treasurer

Monday, October 27, 2014

The report from the negotiation table on Friday, October 24 puts the leadership team in the position of asking members to prepare to act in unity. Over the past 3 sessions this fall, we have tried to negotiate an interest based deal while attempting to offer the District the opportunity to begin to rebuild the trust lost after the last several years.  THEY are squandering the opportunity and, reluctantly, we may again have to ask you to WITHDRAW SERVICES to remind the District of your primary role in the educational success of the students.  We hope it doesn’t come to that.  We have carefully attempted to secure your interests without resorting to such actions.  Yet, IT APPEARS THAT THE DISTRICT IS, ONCE AGAIN, WILLING TO PUT FRIVOLOUS EXPENDITURES AHEAD OF WHAT IS RIGHTFULLY YOURS.

After the “discovery” last month of 3.9 million dollars from last year, the District has passed up the opportunity to sign on the dotted line with a deal that would be good business for both sides of the table. In addition to the accounting inconsistencies between budgeted and actual figures, the District is receiving the following additional state revenues for each of the next three years as ongoing funding into perpetuity to close the education funding gap that resulted from the economic downturn which began in 2008.

2014-15: 29.56% = $3,574,726
2015-16: 20.68% = $2,500,857
2016-17: 25.48%  = $3,081,327
MBUTA’s most current offer would require the District spends less than $1.7 million (4.5%) additional money on teacher salaries and statutory benefits (not including health care, which is not affected by an increase in salary) on the ongoing basis. Although we recognize there are additional expenses due to “me too” clauses in classified and management contracts, the cost of the overall increase will not exceed $2.25 million in ongoing spending. This is in sharp contrast to the $9.1 million increase to the District’s ongoing revenue through 2017. Our current offer is extremely reasonable for a single year contract. Surrounding districts are settling their contracts–Redondo Beach 4.25%; Palos Verdes 4.25%–our district administrators marshal their efforts to oppose a reasonable, fair, and affordable compensation package for teachers.

The two teams have exchanged offers over the past two sessions—at the conclusion of Friday’s session, the difference between MBUTA’s and MBUSD’s offers equals little more than the salary of the recently approved finance director position, the individual contracts for shadow administrators, and the TOSA positions the district recently added or renewed. When the District wants to spend millions on pet projects or increased administrative overhead, the discussion is sparse to non-existent at board meetings. The District penchant to blithely endorse the expenditure of millions of dollars on consultants, soccer fields, and technology (which becomes obsolete nearly instantaneously) while neglecting to build the trust of its most valued resource—its teachers—has once more become the conflict of the hour.

When it comes to adequately compensating teachers who deal with ever-increasing expectations and demands on our ever-decreasing personal time—they will fight to deny us a reasonable, sustainable, and affordable compensation.

While under the shadow of the PERB charge, and still within the 30 day window of its mandated posting for bad faith bargaining, we once more see the District walking the path which led us to PERB two years ago–the claim that they are going broke. Rather than deal transparently with its employees and make a deal well within their financial means, they have shown their intransigence as we attempt to meet them halfway.

Superintendent Matthews, who is chairing the District’s negotiation team, indicated that he would meet with school board members to prepare for another bargaining session this week. We will keep our members apprised of the results–and hope to have news of a settlement soon.

In Unity,
Shawn Chen MBUTA President
Lauri Gonalons, MBUTA Vice-President
Bill Fauver MBUTA Vice-President
Linda Daly MBUTA Secretary/Treasurer

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Last Thursday, October 2 2014, the MBUTA bargaining team met at the SBUT office for an all-day session with the members of the MBUSD bargaining team. The district brought their lawyer Steve Andelson, Brett Geithman, Carolyn Seaton, and Ben Dale to the table under the leadership of Mike Matthews who is sitting at the table for the first time. Our team remains the reliable and effective team of American history teacher Jed Rucker (MBMS), our SBUT Executive Director Sandra Goins, Elementary Teacher Linda Hunt (PK), and the Bargaining Chair Adam Geczi (Econ and World History teacher, MCHS).

The two teams quickly established ground rules and moved in to a full day’s work focused on contractual language and the details of a possible negotiated settlement on the many issues sunshined at the September 17 board meeting. (Where $4,000,000 was added to the budget due to “misses” in the budgeting process). We are cautiously optimistic that these talks will move quickly to a satisfactory conclusion. Your participation in the bargaining survey will help us to ascertain your interests relative to the work we are doing on behalf of all members. If you have not yet done so, watch the Livestream of the September 17 board meeting or read the attached document which details the contract areas open for discussion during this round of negotiations.
Preparation for these meetings requires hours of time from the bargaining team–we all benefit from their expertise and the time they take from their families to help us and ours. The two teams will meet again on October 14. As soon as we have details which we can share with you we will send an email to all our members.

As always, please contact your site reps or members of the Executive Board with any questions you may have about bargaining or other contractual issues throughout the year.

In Unity,
Shawn Chen MBUTA President
Lauri Gonalons, MBUTA Vice-President
Bill Fauver MBUTA Vice-President
Linda Daly MBUTA Secretary/Treasurer

 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Once again it is time to update you on negotiations, and once again we have nothing positive to bring to you. We have made zero progress despite our best efforts to collaborate with the District while still protecting your interests. Negotiating with the District is much like eating soup with a fork; a lot goes on but nothing’s happening.

The district’s strategy has shifted from the publicly unsustainable outright adversarial to one of cooperative obstructionism. While seeming to “offer” increases in benefits and significant resources toward “professional development”; in fact, their offers are carefully crafted to put the onus on teachers. Their most recent offer makes sure that health costs and the real work of professional development remains the work of teachers. In recent meetings, we have spent nearly eight hours attempting reach an agreement on language that would guarantee voluntary (as opposed to mandatory) professional development time paid at your professional daily rate (as opposed to your hourly rate) between now and the end of 2015.

We know that every single one of us needs to become familiar with Common Core and this has to be part of a trusted and broader District effort. Thus, we surveyed our membership and presented data along with an offer of cooperation to develop a meaningful professional development plan with a built-in contingency for failure. We insisted that if the district does not provide proper and adequate opportunities, inevitably each member will use his or her own valuable time to make the transition and they must be compensated. We have attempted to ensure that you receive sufficient quality training at your per diem rate, however, the district has remained disagreeable in the language that would guarantee this outcome. While the District admittedly does not disagree with MBUTA in principle, they are unwilling to commit to any proposed language brought forth by the association, even as they have provisionally committed funding.

This is clearly a strategy to stall the process and tire our efforts. By seeming to offer a large amount of money “committed” to professional development, they hope to convince the public that there is a good faith offer on the table. Those of us who have been “trained” in Powerschool recognize the hallmarks of poor quality professional development—slipshod, last-minute, poorly designed instruction is not good enough for our students, it is not something we should accept from our administrators.

The fact that we cannot get an agreement on the simplest, most obviously and easily agreeable item on the agenda shows that the District has no interest in moving on to the more challenging issues. Once again the power of MBUTA lies within our membership. We appreciate the support you have offered thus far. Your patience with the process and willingness to stand firm in your resolve to value the contributions you make to this District will send a message—we will not accept less than we deserve.

The MBUTA Bargaining Team

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

As most of you are aware, MBUTA opened talks with the District to renegotiate some of the terms in the current contract. On September 26, 2013 we exchanged the first proposals. The District’s only proposal sought to correct two mistakes that it believes were made in the 2013-2014 school calendar. In addition, the District proposed to change the calendar by extending the school year one day—stating this was necessary to make up for the aforementioned “mistakes”. Of course, any change to the calendar would require a ratification vote if not voted on as part of a broader tentative agreement.

MBUTA proposed that existing planning time for elementary teachers be augmented by an additional 3 hours per month. In our site visits, we have heard about the great need for more planning time within the workday and it is the Bargaining Team’s intent to improve the working conditions for all of our members. Furthermore, MBUTA proposed an increase of 6% to the certificated salary schedule effective July 1, 2013 while maintaining our current 80/20 split on healthcare benefits. In addition, we proposed to increase the extra duty rate to $45 per hour and a significant adjustment to both extra duty and coaching stipends (ranging from 3-8% of step 15 column 6) recognizing the extraordinary contributions many of you make beyond the contractual hours.

MBUTA also proposed that the District shall offer 5 voluntary staff development days for the implementation of Common Core paid at each member’s professional daily rate in the 2013-2014 school year, utilizing State funds appropriated for that purpose. Finally, MBUTA sought that the presidential release time (0.2 FTE) be paid for by the district in its entirety instead of the current 50/50 split.  This proposal would allow MBUTA’s President to be released one period a day at district expense, consistent with the contracts of many surrounding districts, including Redondo. For long-term effectiveness, MBUTA must have release time for its president. Beyond the exchange of these proposals no progress was made at the table in September.

On October 4, 2013, PERB, the Public Employment Relations Board, issued a Complaint against the District. In the Complaint, PERB declared that the District was found to be operating in bad faith. See your site reps and visit www.MBUTANow.org for more information regarding this charge.

On October 8, 2013 the District returned to the table with no counter offer to our initial proposal. No progress was made. They stated that they would have a response to our proposal at the next meeting on October 14, 2013.

On October 13, 2013 at 1:05 pm the District cancelled the October 14, 2013 session.

On November 4, 2013 the District returned to the table with their first counter offer. The proposal mainly addressed the salary and benefits package and teacher evaluations. This counter  ABSOLUTELY DISMISSED long-standing elementary teacher concerns about planning time, PE instruction and equity. In the same fashion, it also DISMISSED the extra duty and coaching stipends as well as the extra duty hourly rate and the presidential release time.

While in large part, the salary proposal was built on a concept introduced by MBUTA last year, however, the timing of it, and allocation of dollars to our salary schedule, appears to be designed to divide us rather than to address the issue of salary schedule structure. The District wants to raise some cells by considerably less than others. It also presented a misleading long-term outcome by projecting a 2.7% average increase as a 3.7% average (one-time) increase onto the permanent salary schedule. MBUTA leadership recognizes the need to address the degradation in compensation for our most experienced teachers. The Bargaining Team seeks a more equitable and more permanent distribution schema. This can happen provided the District use the increase in state funding as intended with a larger share going to educate today’s students as opposed to hoarding it away in reserve accounts. We are also concerned that the District may blow through these funds on technology that is fleeting and has outcomes that are unknown at this time. The greatest resource for students is a highly trained, highly qualified teacher.

Perhaps most important to understand about the District’s salary proposal is that it is predicated upon capping the benefits package at today’s rates. As proposed, their meager increase would soon be eaten up by the rising cost of healthcare premiums. This is UNACCEPTABLE.

Insurance premiums typically increase in the long-run, while our recent history shows that our salaries do not advance at a similar rate. Presenting the impact of the hard cap proposed by the District on our entire membership in a single statement would be difficult and have little significance as individual circumstances vary greatly. However, for a point of comparison, between 2007 and 2012 a member earning $65656.00 on the salary schedule providing insurance for her entire family (3+) would have seen  11.1% of her income eaten up by insurance premium increases under the hard cap proposed by the District. Under the current 80/20 split, this impact is mitigated to 2.2%; still a loss, but clearly our members fare better under the current agreement. As a corollary, the most adversely impacted members would be low on both step and column with a family plan, and the least affected would be high on the salary schedule in both step and column with a single plan. Others would fall somewhere in the middle. The current 80/20 split serves the greatest benefit for the greatest number of people. Looking over a 10-year period, continuing the current benefit provides a measure of income security for our members.

Also at the November 4 meeting, MBUTA fleshed out its calendar proposal, identifying which days we would like to see scheduled for the voluntary professional development. We proposed that these days be paid at our professional daily rate.

In negotiations, tone is as important as substance.  For the last two years, we have been met with contempt and a refusal to meaningfully provide information and bargain in good faith.  This isn’t just our opinion, it is the opinion of the State agency empowered to determine this, PERB.

However, during the latter stages of the last session, the District, for the first time, seemed willing to actually discuss and share interests rather than simply push paper at us or offer no response at all.  We hope to be able to build on this and become the final district in our area to reach a fair and equitable contract settlement. We’ll need your support to secure such a settlement.

Stay connected with your site reps as information will be transmitted through them. Also, be sure that our Organizing Team led by Alan Zeoli and Barbara Umanoff has your email and other contact information. Email them at: zeoli.alan@gmail.com and aumanoff@aol.com.

In Solidarity,

Your Bargaining Team

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 .

Sincerely,

The Bargaining Team

Tuesday, July 7, 2012     

“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!

Sincerely,

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.

Sincerely,

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.

Sincerely,

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.

Sincerely,

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.

Sincerely,

Bargaining Team

 

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 bt@mbutanow.org with questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

Adam S. Geczi

Chairman, MBUTA Bargaining Team

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