Union Independence, A Better Model
Adopting a model of union independence allows you to control your own destiny, respond to issues as they arise in an expeditious manner, retain attorneys and labor professionals to provide representation and negotiations and most importantly greatly reduce your dues, giving yourself a raise.
As an independent labor association you operate under your own by-laws which can be expeditiously amended by your membership as needed. It is imperative that your organization is fluid to respond to the ever changing landscape of public employee labor relations. You decide when and how to spend your money politically, influencing the politics that have a direct effect on the terms and conditions of your employment.
Attorneys and labor professionals negotiate and enforce labor agreements, meet and confer the employer regarding the terms and conditions of your employment and provide representation during the discipline process through retainer agreements at a rate significantly less than union dues paid to a state-wide union that simply provides shop steward training to your peers.
This model has been proven to be a great value that has been effectively employed by hundreds of police, fire and miscellaneous employee associations.
As an independent association you control your own destiny and have the ability to expeditiously respond to employment issues as they arise and retain attorneys and labor professionals to provide representation versus the shop steward model.
Does CTA Have More Clout at the Bargaining Table?
Labor relations in California is very structured with Collective Bargaining Laws in place for all public employees. Collective bargaining for schools K-12 and community colleges is known as the Educational Employment Relations Act (EERA) and is contained in the Government Code under Sections 3540-3549.3. All recognized bargaining units in California have the right to meet and confer over terms, hours, wages and conditions of employment. The Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) maintains jurisdiction over this legal process. Therefore, the salient question is what does CTA bring to either the bargaining table or political action with our representative School Board that is unique or special?
CTA can provide a negotiator to assist the negotiations team generally made up of subject matter experts, the teachers, and canhelp guide the negotiations process. Likewise, most other public sector unions or associations are represented by professionals at the table who work with their respective subject matter experts (the employees represented). CTA does not have a special stable of negotiators who are the only people that can lead the negotiations team during contract negotiations.
Frankly, if one were to read the Collective Bargaining laws for the different groups of employees in California one would be surprised as to how similar they are. The critical skill needed by the negotiator is the ability to work with the negotiations team to accomplish their local needs. There is not a one size fits all template that can be applied to all school districts any more than it could be applied across the board to all police departments or fire departments. Critical, is experience in the negotiations area and the skill to understand the law and specifically the needs of the local association or union.
Local control is the watchword when it comes to negotiations. What best meets the needs of this group of teachers, rather than the boilerplate that is being put in place everywhere else. The tailoring of the negotiations process to the needs of the local union/association is time consuming, deliberative, and demands individual focus. This is not the time to be buttonholed into some overreaching scheme or approaches that will not work with your board.
Political action with your respective Board of Education is critical to your success. Your local Board of Education sets policy relative to administration and your wages, hours, terms and conditions of employment. Therefore, as stakeholders in the district, once again a local focus is needed. The time spent educating your respective board about the needs of your fellow teachers is paramount. There is not some statewide script that the Board will read that will make them sympathetic to your individual needs. Just the opposite, the law firms that represent the Districts provide them with training in all facets of labor relations and often that training seems somewhat anti-employee. Under the proper guidance of a labor relations professional working with the local union/association, the employee organization works to develop a relationship where they can educate the Board relative to the needs of the teachers in the district. While we compare our wages and benefits with other professionals in other districts, the hard core reality is that we must have a majority vote of “our” board to enhance our prospects and protect our jobs and benefits.
This is not about the appearance of statewide muscle but about the effort that is done locally to develop relationships with the policy makers that affect us. This is not about money flowing to legislative or congressional campaigns relative to educational policy or to pad the lifestyles of big union leaders. It is about relationships that educate our local policy makers to support our local needs. The California police and fire associations have found that local focus and local control has propelled them into the highest paid professionals in the public sector. Collectively, police officers pay less than $10 per person per month to their statewide organization yet have the best retirement system, highest wages and benefits of public employees associations in the State. There is a local control and direction model that will work for the teachers associations. Let’s learn something from our public safety sector.
What is CIT’s Political Agenda?
We don’t have one; we have a service agenda to provide teachers with a model of representation that is more responsive, effective and far less costly than the CTA model. Politically, our team is all over the ideological spectrum. Our “agenda” is to give teachers the information and tools to decide for themselves whether they want to stay tied to CTA or be independent. What the independent teacher associations decide to do politically (assuming they want to even get involved in politics) is totally up to them.
So you are prepared, CTA will inevitably accuse us of being conservative and/or liberal extremists out to destroy (“bust”) the unions. Odd, considering we are, labor professionals representing employee associations every day.
CTA takes a huge amount of dues yet has created a representation model in which your colleagues, as part of a largely volunteer set of officers, bargaining team members, and shop stewards, do the vast majority of the work for your members. The money you send to CTA goes to pay for a huge, and ever growing, administrative bureaucracy, that apparently leaves no money for professional negotiators and lawyers to handle your disciplinary matters, contract enforcement, and bargaining.
Our Better Model is predicated on your independent teacher association having the freedom to hire, and thus fire, the labor and legal professionals that provide services to them. We do this every day and know what it costs to represent public employees, including teachers. The cost is far less than what CTA charges you because we don’t have the overhead and administrative costs they do, nor the political lobbying expenses they incur. Any extra money that you save (at least 50% of your current dues and maybe as much as 80%) can be returned to the teachers or spent on the services and issue that your local association decides is most important to you.
Currently, as a member of CTA, you must pay whatever CTA and NEA set as their dues. Because CTA is essentially a monopoly when it comes to representing public school teachers in California, the dues have predictably risen higher and higher – without any noticeable increase in services to the members.
The CIT Model returns to the teachers of each district the right to set their own dues.
An independent teachers’ association can set dues comfortably at half of what they are currently paying under the CTA model and still get professional representation in the bargaining process and to cover all contract enforcement and individual disciplinary matters. The professional services can be provided by a law firm such as Goyette & Associates that specializes in representing California public employee associations. These services can be provided to associations with memberships that range from a few dozen teachers to several thousand.
The cost of hiring professionals to handle the core services that the association needs is about 20-40% of the total dues currently being paid. That leaves 10-30% of current dues for the association to use for general administrative costs, other member services and local political action – or whatever the association chooses to do. That still leaves 50% of current dues to be returned to the individual teachers – call it the CTA dividend.
Don’t believe that a labor law firm actually costs less than CTA? It’s true, by a lot! Ask around. Police officers, firefighters, and other public employees pay as much as 80% less than teachers and routinely receive professional labor and legal representation that far outweighs what CTA provides.
The decertification process is simple and can easily be accomplished by any group of teachers who are interested in making it happen. Here are the basic steps:
The First Step: File a Petition
The First step is to file a showing of interest petition that shows at least 30% of your bargaining unit wants to have a decertification election. The petition itself is not complicated and any number of forms will work. Here are 2 examples of petitions that work just fine. * link pending
The timing of the petition is important. The petition must be filed in a twenty-nine day window that is 90 to 120 days prior to the expiration of your MOU. For example, if your CBA (otherwise known as your MOU or Memorandum on Understanding) expires on June 30th, the petition must be filed sometime during the month of March.
The Second Step: The Election
Once the petition has been filed, PERB will review it and contact you regarding scheduling and election. PERB will conduct a ballot election where a simple majority determines the outcome the ballot typically includes the names of both the incumbent union and the new petitioning employee organization.
The Third Step: You’re Up and Running
Since the majority of the teachers in your Association voted to be independent, you are now up and running. Your G&A support team and their lawyers will be there to help you through every step along the way.
If I want to know to know more about the decertification process, where do I look?
Good Question. The whole decertification process is determined by State Law. The Educational Employees Relations Act (EERA) governs employee relations within the public school systems of the State of California. The Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) administers and enforces the EERA including all decertification elections. The EERA is contained in Government Code Section 3544, et al. The PERB website also has a lot of useful information. That website is http://www.perb.ca.gov
How will we know if we are doing it right?
We will be here to help you and advise you through every step of the process. We have successfully decertified dozens of units from large Unions. We won’t leave you to do this on your own. Call us at 888-993-1600 now, to learn how to make a huge difference to the teachers in your district or email us here. But Hurry!… if your contract expires this year or next- timing is critical.