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March 30, 2009

1) Teachers' Union, Heal Thyself. A couple of weeks ago, EIA reported about the Maine Education Association's recommendations for bargaining in tough times (see item #4 here). I now have a hard copy of a similar list prepared by the California Teachers Association. It includes such tips as:

* "Roll over current contract without re-opening any articles. Maintaining salary and benefits at current levels is a priority; keeping the status quo is a constructive victory."

* "Do not agree to freeze step and column costs temporarily."

* "Do not trade salary for jobs; in an effort to save positions, you could lose both."

* "Do not agree to furlough days."

* "Do not agree to or advocate for divisive budget cutting proposals, such as cutting certain positions (e.g. counselors, librarians or Education Support Professionals/classified)."

* "Do not sit on a budget cutting committee unless union members comprise a majority, and you have a written commitment from the district that you will have the same representation on the budget increasing committee when there is new money available."

These principles and tactics are very interesting considering CTA is currently negotiating a collective bargaining agreement with its own staff unions. In its very first proposal, CTA management proposed eliminating the "no layoffs, no staff reductions" clauses in the contract. CTA employees held informational picketing at last week's State Council meeting in Los Angeles.

2) CTA Pays Its Hotel Bill. Once upon a time, the California Teachers Association had a close relationship with the Hilton Los Angeles Airport, the hotel where the union would hold its periodic State Council meetings and other conferences. The hotel even partnered with CTA in Read Across America events. In 2006, the local hotel workers' union targeted the Hilton for sanctions and a boycott. In response, CTA canceled events scheduled for the Hilton and moved them to the Westin Bonaventure.

Well, I don't have all the details, but apparently the Hilton sued CTA for $1.2 million, which must have something to do with contractual obligations. After the usual drawn-out procedures, in January CTA and the Hilton reached a settlement of $500,000. I'm unsure if this is covered in the union's budget under administration, governance, politics or community outreach.

3) Recruited Then Booted. Take a look at this article from the Orlando Sentinel about what's likely to happen to the new teachers Florida spent millions trying to recruit over the last few years. It begins:

"Courtney Coker graduated from Florida State University in 2006 eager to start work as a music teacher. It wasn't hard to turn her passion into a paycheck.

"'It was teacher shortage, teacher shortage, teacher shortage,' Coker said. 'I had no problem finding my first job. Everybody I knew found a job.'

"Now, three years later, the band director at Blankner School in Orlando finds herself consumed with fear that her dream job will soon be gone. Like thousands of teachers across Florida, she worries the state's financial crisis could push her into the ranks of the unemployed."

Who's going to listen to that teacher shortage line next time?

4) NEA Needs Sheep Shearer. As I have noted before, for all its political muscle NEA is relatively weak when it comes to raising money for its political action committee. The lion's share is contributed by delegates to the union's Representative Assembly during the four days each year they are trapped in the convention hall.

NEA has decided the problem is serious enough to hire an in-house political fundraiser. His or her main job will be to increase the number of contributors, so if you are an NEA member, you will be hearing from this person very soon.

5) Contract Hits. Wherein we highlight a contract provision from the current agreement between the National Education Association and its largest staff union. Article 14, Part A, Section 2, subsection (a) deals with the accumulation of annual leave, which roughly equates to vacation time. Normally, 75 hours equals two weeks of work.

For employees with less than one year of seniority, 3 hours leave per 75 hours of work.

For employees with 1-2 years of seniority, 4.5 hours leave per 75 hours of work.

For employees with 2-4 years of seniority, 5.5 hours leave per 75 hours of work.

For employees with 4-6 years of seniority, 6.5 hours leave per 75 hours of work.

For employees with 6 or more years of seniority, 7.5 hours leave per 75 hours of work.

) Last Week's Intercepts. EIA's blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from March 23-30:

* CTA Secretary-Treasurer Voted Out in Upset. Check out the comments, too. There is more to this than meets the eye.

* Weekend Paradigm Shift: Is Education Reform Possible? The root of the problem at last.

* California Teachers Association Drops $2 Million on Budget Prop. Stimulus.

* Who Lost Steve Lopez? An LA Times columnist discovers the teacher contract.

* Hey Rosie! Probably a prank, but a pretty good one.

7) Quote of the Week #1. "There's some good reasons for our existing salary schedule. I think it's one that has stood the test of time. It's a clear, transparent, predictable way of paying school employees and I think by and large they're pretty receptive to the current system. I don't see a lot of need from inside the education community to change that." – Washington Education Association President Mary Lindquist. (March 23 OPB News)

Quote of the Week #2. "I always find it interesting that the community is asking people educating children to make sacrifices. We're already giving our best every day to the children of the community when many of us could've chosen other professions where we would have earned more money." – Cheryl Turgel, president of the Newton Teachers Association. (March 27 Daily News Tribune)

Turgel is right. Maybe the problem is the community still has to pay the same amount to those who couldn't earn more in another profession.


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