Hardball Is a Game Two Can Play

The Brevard Federation of Teachers in Florida is unhappy with the school board’s contract offer and has instituted a “work-to-rule” campaign. That is, teachers will perform only those duties specifically required under the collective bargaining agreement and will do no work on their own time.

It is a standard union negotiating tactic, but every contract is binding on all parties. The 87-page Brevard contract is no different.

To my knowledge this has never happened, but suppose the school board also decided to strictly interpret all contract provisions related to the union?

For example:

* The union has the right to use school buildings to meet with members of the bargaining unit, but the meeting shall be “contingent upon such causing no interference with the instructional matters of the school district.”

* The union can place material in teachers’ mailboxes but “a┬ácourtesy copy of such material shall be provided to the principal and sent via courier or U.S. Mail to the Director of Labor Relations or designee.”

* The union can use the district e-mail system, but must immediately remove any objecting recipients, must comply with all applicable federal, state and local laws and board policies regarding e-mail, must communicate only during non-instructional time, and the e-mails “shall not be used for the distribution of information which is political, slanderous, defamatory, libelous, or in any way critical of [the board], the Superintendent or any administrator or other employee of the School Board.”

* Authorized union representatives can visit schools, provided they “indicate to the principal the purpose for such visit,” that can “in no way disrupt or interfere with educational procedures or programs” and cannot include “partisan political activity.”

* Site reps can use school equipment but the union must “reimburse the Board the cost of all materials used and any per-copy cost incurred by the Board” and the use “shall be promptly reported to the principal in writing.”

There is plenty more, and I doubt any union would want to be on the receiving end of a work-to-rule campaign. And none of this relates to the teachers themselves. Using the letter of the law to bludgeon your adversary might make the public question the law’s true purpose.