I was one of about eighty teachers who attended the SDEA Board meeting last night (Wednesday, June 13). I attended with the express purpose of getting two questions answered. First, I wanted to know how the ratification vote on upcoming concessions would be counted to ensure that the results that are going to be reported out are accurate. Second, I wanted to know why SDEA and the concessions bargaining team have not addressed the matter of the District’s $71 million rainy day fund that was discovered by SDEA’s own budget scrub team. As we have mentioned before, this money could reinstate all laid off employees as well as fund our pay restoration. I asked both of these questions during the Member Issues section of the SDEA Board meeting. SDEA President Bill Freeman said that the $71 million is now only $56 million. According to him, the District has accounted for this $20 million discrepancy. If the District budget can deviate from the results of the budget scrub by $15 million in the space of just a few weeks, how can we trust anything the District told us during that process or during this new bargaining process to be accurate? My other question about the counting of the ratification vote had to wait until much later.
During the Member Issues section, many other members from schools throughout the District stated that they feel as though they have been lied to and deceived by union leadership because the decisions leading up to bargaining were not clearly and honestly communicated to members, and comprise a radical departure from what Freeman and the SDEA Board were saying just a few months ago. Throughout the year, Freeman told members at site visits all over the District that the union’s position was no layoffs and no concessions. Then a few short weeks ago that changed, without any formal way to find out if that’s what members actually want.
Contingents of teachers from three elementary schools spoke in support of the SDEA Board’s recent actions, and thanked the Board for doing a great job. What is clear from these comments is that ALL SDEA members want to fight layoffs. We continue to await the SDEA Board to launch a plan to get laid off teachers back that involves something other than contract concessions.
The SDEA Board then moved into Executive Session and we had to leave. We came back after Executive Session, where we were read the email that you received from the bargaining team Wednesday night. The meeting was the adjourned.
Remember, there had still been no answer to my ratification question at that point, so another member and I approached Freeman after the meeting. We asked, who would be present when the votes were tallied? Many members have expressed concerns about this process. Freeman stated that anyone who wants to observe the vote count is free to do so. We then asked how we would know that the vote on the ballot would be the same vote that is being called out. For example if a “yes” vote is called out, how would we know if the actual ballot said “yes”? He said that we could see the ballots as they were counted thereby seeing what is actually on them. This is good news. Let’s make sure that members are present to witness this important process!
Finally, my question was answered! But it would have gone unanswered if we had not personally spoken to Freeman after the meeting. The distrust that Freeman doesn’t seem to understand comes from a lack of transparency on the part of the union. Members should not have to wait for hours after an SDEA Board meeting to get answers to basic questions about our union’s democratic process. As one of thousands of loyal members who pay dues every month, are we not entitled to transparency?