Jan. 22 Rep. Council: Change Can’t Come Too Soon

Several important events have transpired in the past couple of weeks, all of which are crucial for our membership and their ARs to understand because our reaction to this information will determine how we are positioned going into bargaining our next contract.  (After reading the info, we’d like to hear your thoughts.  Email us!)

By Shane Parmely, SDEA Board Member

  1. Governor Jerry Brown released his budget and SDUSD should get $60 MILLION ABOVE AND BEYOND the increased level of funding that they were already expecting.
  2. Based on this budget news, United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) House of Representatives (their Rep Council) voted to IMMEDIATELY go to the bargaining table with their district and push for a 17.6% pay increase RETRO to the beginning of THIS YEAR.
  3. Superintendent Cindy Marten released her Vision 2020 budget plan for next year.  In it, she and a cross-section representing our district decided what they would like to see in place on the first day of school and then they adjusted their plan based on how much they could afford.

I attended the January Rep. Council, which took place right on the heels of all three events, with a sense of urgency in discussing this info and the questions it left looming in my mind. My question:  What rate of pay did Cindy Marten and her team use when calculating how much they can afford to implement next year?  Because I have a feeling it might not be the rate of pay we would find satisfactory.  And now she’s out selling this “vision” to the community, which will enable her to claim later during our contract negotiations that our long-overdue raises (on top of the restorations we are owed) will prevent her from implementing her plan.  She will again get to claim that teachers are being greedy and that we should take pay cuts because it’s what is best for the children.  (I don’t think Marten realizes that driving people away from working in this district with low wages is in the “best interest” of children.)

After Executive Director Tim Hill’s bargaining update, I went to the mic and started to share and an unexpected thing happened: I started getting heckled, shouted at, and talked over.  And not by a couple of people sitting in the back saying rude things under their breath — by current SDEA Board members and officers sitting at the front of the room.  By people running on the Burningham slate and their supporters.  Not only did President Bill Freeman, whose role as chair is to keep order in the meeting, not ask the hecklers to stop — he asked me to stop, and “get to my question.”

“Just ask your question.”

“She’s out of order.”

“Turn off the microphone.”

Aren’t these people teachers? Without the context of my question, it wouldn’t make sense.  Also, shouldn’t our members know what’s going on?  This affects everyone’s pay, benefits, and working conditions.  Thankfully, some ARs in attendance shouted back at them saying things like, “Let her speak,” and “You don’t cut other people off!”  Others encouraged me to ignore them and keep going so I did.

Tim Hill’s response to my question was surprising.  He got a bit defensive and said that the UTLA motion to seek a 17.6% raise ASAP had come from the Rep. Council floor, that it had divided their union, and that now UTLA was going into bargaining in a weakened position. Really?!  Because that’s not what I’ve heard from the UTLA members I’ve talked to.  Knowing that SDEA Secretary Michelle Sanchez and I would be spending the weekend with UTLA people at the CTA State Council, we decided to investigate Hill’s claim.  She and I spoke with many UTLA members and NONE of them reported that the decision to push for 17.6% THIS YEAR had been divisive.  Well, some people are mad because they think 17.6% is too low and that UTLA should be pushing for 20-30% this year… I’d hardly say that weakens their bargaining position, would you?  [Read Michelle Sanchez’s write up of CTA State Council HERE.]

All of this makes me worry about the proposals our union will be taking to the bargaining table this spring.  Bargaining a contract is like buying a car. You start off way above your bottom line. If Tim Hill and Bill Freeman and Lindsay Burningham think 17.6% is a craaaaazy opening offer, where will they be starting out? With $60 million+ extra money coming into the District next year, shouldn’t we stop settling for the crumbs that fall to the floor and demand a real seat at the table?

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