Why I’m Voting No

As delivered on the floor of the SDEA Rep. Council

By Shane Parmely
Bell Middle School

If this were a 2-year contract, I would vote yes.  Not because I think it’s a good contract, but because I would at least know that we could go back next spring and negotiate something better.  But this Tentative Agreement locks us into something extremely mediocre over three years, a time when the district will literally receive more money than ever.  SDEA Executive Director Tim Hill [SDEA’s lead negotiator] told us at the beginning of our bargaining campaign, and all year at Rep. Council, that we would be nuts to accept a 3-year contract unless the district was willing to pay for the third year. They’re not! But now SDEA is telling us to take it anyway.

Everything I’m hearing from SDEA lately sounds like we’re bargaining out of fear.  “If we don’t approve the TA, the district doesn’t have to come back to the bargaining table.”  “If we go on strike, the district will give people emergency credentials.” (Like it would be possible to get 6,000+ emergency credentials in a day.)  “If we don’t lock in a 3-year contract, we might lose our health care in 16-17.”  If we have a 2-year contract, then we keep our healthcare while we negotiate the next contract, JUST LIKE WE DID THIS YEAR, because when our contract expires the status quo stays in place legally.  No one was worried about losing our healthcare this year while we bargained. This vote is NOT about whether we keep our fully paid family healthcare in 16-17, because we keep it either way.

The real question is, do we want to be fighting for a raise without any leverage?  The biggest leverage we have is a strike.  We can’t strike in reopened bargaining because we can’t strike while we’re under contract.  How successful do you think we’ll be without that leverage?  The Vista Teachers Association (VTA) is currently attempting to bargain a raise as part of their contract reopener on salary, and their district is offering them ZERO.  They’ve had two bargaining session, and VTA just declared impasse to try to fast track fact finding because their district doesn’t want to share the new money coming in.

This tells us that our district is likely to do the same thing because we will be missing our two main abilities to escalate: 1) Strike and 2) Community support.  Parents are only supportive now because we are putting forward a comprehensive package that will benefit their child in the classroom.  If all we want is a wage increase, we lose the parents.  They aren’t showing up for a rally just for a raise.

This past year I’ve been on the Organizing Committee and attended almost every meeting.  For the past year I have begged our union to put pressure on our school board members.  I asked that we leaflet Labor Council to put pressure on Richard Barrera.  SDEA staff and leaders told me to wait.  I asked that we talk with and email the union and teachers that Kevin Beiser and Marne Foster work with.  SDEA staff and leaders told me to wait.  I was told to “hold on” and that we didn’t want to escalate to that point yet but THAT WE WOULD GET THERE.

Well now it seems they didn’t say that we should wait in order to be “strategic”.  It seems that they said we should wait so that we wouldn’t have to actually do the work.  They said “wait” because they didn’t want to jeopardize our friendly relationships with our school board members.  Instead of leafletting the Labor Council Awards dinner this past Friday night, SDEA staff and leaders spent the evening rubbing elbows and partying with Richard, Marne, and Kevin.

If we had actually fought as hard as we could for a good contract, I would be okay with this TA.  But SDEA never gave us the chance to fight.  Instead, they kept telling us to “wait”.  We know it works when we fight because after the petition drive and the rally (even with how poorly attended it was after SDEA scheduled it during a vacation and sent only  two reminder emails), there was movement at the bargaining table from the district.  This isn’t 2012.  We don’t have a bunch of layoffs.  We have all the time we need so why are we rushing into a mediocre settlement?  We have the facts and public support on our side.  We may not have this type of chance again for another ten years and we’re squandering it on a 5% raise over 3 years.

That’s why I’m voting no and why many teachers I know are voting no.  So that when we settle we know that it is the strongest possible contract we could get.  Because right now, this is just not it.


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