If We Leave CTA will the District Try to Push Us Around at the Bargaining Table?
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.