When one side of the negotiations teams, files an unfair labor practice it is typically part of an overall strategy to rally support from their constitutents. While the claims maybe without merit, the simple filing of the complaints allows pubilicity to be generated. The Public Employees Relations Board takes the filing of the complaint and usually waits to see how the negotiations continues. This tactic is commonly used by unions while Districts are more hestitant to file them. More unusual is the use of physical intimidation during the negotiation process.
AEA to File Unfair Labor Practice Complaint
At a March 18th District Office rally of approximately 125 teachers, union representative expressed their intent to file an unfair labor practice with the Public Employees Relations Board (PERB). The teacher union is contending the following are unfair labor practices:
My Initial Reaction
There are three items I will comment on:
First, the District purposeful misrepresentation of healthcare proposal by AEA is a hard one to understand. Here is the language from the AEA proposal:
At first read I would have assumed that AEA was requesting an increase of contributions for all of its employees since no distinction was made about only applying the increase to members with families. There are employees who do not use the health care coverage and receive $300 a month in lieu of health care coverage. Are these employees' beenfits changing? During future negotiations session a better understanding of AEA's proposal can be determined.
Second, as to my quote "We are just trying to buy time." is not a full representation of the quote. If you read the article you see the following:
School board member Michael McMahon said the district is strapped for money and it will be hard to meet teacher demands.
"We're just trying to buy time like every other school district when it comes to the school's budget," he said. "The situation is ugly statewide."
If you read the clarification you will see that the one quote was from a twenty minute conversation with the newspaper reporter where I was giving him background information on State/District finances.
Finally, I am not clear on where the District has made proposals that violate Measure A. A report of expenditures from the October 28th Board meeting show the District spending the parcel taxes proceeds as intended.
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District mulling unfair labor charge
By Jennifer Kabbany, North County Times, January 20, 2005
TEMECULA ---- District administrators this week are considering whether to file an unfair labor charge with the agency that oversees collective bargaining for public employees because of last week's sickout, in which about 215 teachers called in sick and caused some schools to close early.
Temecula Valley Unified School District officials are unsure at this point whether they will levy the unfair labor charge with the state Public Employment Relations Board and are looking into the matter, said Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Chris Cordner.
The possible labor charge is one of several issues Temecula school district officials and teachers are dealing with as negotiations over teachers' salaries and benefits have crumbled.
District officials are in the process of tallying how many of the 215 or so teachers who called in sick Friday came back this week with their absence verification form properly filled out. The form was e-mailed to district employees last Thursday in response to rumors of a sickout.
At a minimum, the district still plans to dock a day's pay from anyone absent the day of the sickout who could not prove that they were actually sick or had an excused absence, said spokeswoman Danielle Clark.
Despite a principals' meeting Wednesday morning, the district could not yet provide an accurate count of how many teachers turned in their forms, she said.
Other issues that surfaced this week include teachers accusing district officials of misleading parents on details of the sickout and district administrators providing trustees with a spreadsheet of the district's budget to illustrate why they have offered teachers all they can.
With regard to the possible labor charge, district officials have said that because the sickout took place prior to the district and teachers union reaching an official impasse with their salary negotiations, the sickout could be construed as a contract violation.
Members of the teachers union, the Temecula Valley Educators Association, said talk of an unfair labor charge is ridiculous.
The union officially condemned the sickout and had no part in organizing it, union officials said, adding that it was a grassroots movement by frustrated teachers.
Other issues surrounding the sickout came to a head at Tuesday's school board meeting, during which several teachers and one parent voiced their anger at district officials.
One point of contention is a letter Superintendent Dave Allmen e-mailed to 16,000 parents Friday, the day of the sickout, which stated in part that "today, the last school day before finals, was possibly the worst day for high school teachers to choose to be away from class."
In response, teachers said that finals begin today, not Tuesday, and Allmen's letter either illustrates how out of touch he is with his schools or represents a flagrant misrepresentation.
"They are deliberately misleading the public to put the teachers in an unprofessional light," said Temecula Valley High School teacher Larry Thompson, the union's political action chairman.
Not so, Clark said. Some students had presentations in lieu of a final exam scheduled for Friday, the day of the sickout, and a few students did take a final earlier this week, she said.
Teachers and district officials also sparred at Tuesday's board meeting over whether the district was hiding any money in the budget that could instead go to a salary offer. Teachers said there is money in the budget that could help pay for a better raise.
One offer is 4 percent salary increase, retroactive to Jan. 1. The other was a multi-year plan in which teachers would receive a 2 percent raise, retroactive to July 1, 2005, the start of the fiscal year, with no change in benefits. Then, each year over the next two years, they would receive a 3 percent raise and add $600 to their health benefits cap.
In response, many Temecula teachers said they are upset because they feel the offer reflects the fact that district administrators do not respect or appreciate the job teachers do.
They said the offer does not mirror the cost-of-living adjustment of 4.05 percent handed down by the state, but their counterparts in Menifee and Murrieta received a 4 percent raise retroactive to the beginning of this fiscal year.
Underscoring this, they said that the state is spending a lot of money on public education this year and is expected to continue that trend in the coming years.
Meanwhile, they said, the Temecula school district is projecting millions in reserves in the coming years and already shortchanged them their cost-of-living adjustment last year.
"When your negotiation team stalls and hides money, it is obvious they are doing it with your permission," union President Bob Rollins told the board. "Stop crying poverty when your own budget states a projected excess of $8 million for this year, $17 million for next year, and $33 million for the following year."
In response, board members challenged the union to find the alleged hidden money. In an interview, board President Barbara Tooker reiterated her comments during the meeting.
"We can't give what we don't have," she said.
District administrators gave trustees a spreadsheet Tuesday with an outline of how the multi-year salary offer presented to teachers and the district's nonteaching union would affect the district's budget from this year until the end of the 2008 fiscal year.
In it, the district presents figures that show that, while their projected ending balances for the next three years are $8 million, $17 million and $33 million, those figures were developed from an interim budget report and do not factor in, for example, current and future salary and benefits offers for all employees, including administrators, the district's mandated 3 percent reserves, and restricted money that can only be used for certain things.
The data also took into account saving $1.5 million in the next two years to open a fourth high school, as well as paying for the growing number of employees in the district and several other factors, said Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Jeff Okun.
According to the spreadsheet, the district would be upside-down by about $150,000 at the end of this year and the next if its employees agreed to the multi-year salary and benefits offer.
Okun said the figures are preliminary and based on several factors that could change, such as student enrollment estimates, but that overall show how the district is offering what it can.
As of Wednesday, there were no bargaining sessions scheduled between the district and teachers union to work on their disagreements.
Vandals target school board
By Esther Chou, San Gabriel Valley Times, January 23, 2005
Four elected officials found their homes vandalized early Friday, the morning after a heated school board meeting in which the teachers union demanded a better pay raise. Walnut Valley Unified School District board president Cindy Ruiz found red paint splattered on her driveway and a threatening letter printed on red paper.
"You can only assume the union is involved. It could be just an individual that's taking it to a level that has gone above and beyond what the expectation is," Ruiz said. "It's scary now. How do they expect us to react to this?"
However, Jim Faren, president of the Walnut Valley Educators Association, doesn't think a teacher is responsible for the vandalism. And he's sure that no one on the association's leadership or negotiating team is to blame.
"We didn't condone this type of activity. That's not the type of of activity that we believe in," Faren said.
Nearly 200 teachers attended Thursday's board meeting, saying negotiations between the district and 700-member union have reached a stalemate.
The district is offering a 4 percent pay increase; the teachers want 5. School officials said the extra 1 percent would mean cuts to programs and staffing.
Friday, four of the five school board members found red paint splattered on their driveways and at least two received the letter, which named all board members, Superintendent Kent Bechler and assistant superintendents Diane Hockersmith and Bryan Cole. Only newly elected board member Nancy Lyons was not targeted.
The sheriff's department and West Covina police have been notified. No damage estimate was available.
"It's disappointment more so than anything else," said board member Helen Hall. "There's no anger. It's really disappointment that the teachers union would stoop to these types of tactics."
In the letter, "Take Bechler Out" is printed on the left side of the page. Statements include: "Teachers must have what's right, not what's left now," "Bechler is the school district bully. Send him to the principal," "Hall needs her retirement papers and we need a change" and "Erase lying lady Diane (Hockersmith) and her funny numbers."
Lori Huckler, a teacher who was on the association's negotiation team last year, said her principal told her about the vandalism Friday.
She said she's disappointed that the knee-jerk reaction has been that the union did it.
"It would serve no purpose for us to do that," Huckler said. "It's disappointing to me as a union member where the level of trust has gone at this point."
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