Sunday, December 15, 2013

Hey, Trib! Brave Op Ed. Not.

The Mail Tribune weighed in on the ongoing labor issues in the Medford School District with an unsigned OpEd that <snark>courageously</snark> tried to paint the teachers' union as the bad guys while simultaneously chastising the district for handling things in a less than graceful manner.

The original OpEd is HERE

I decided it wasn't an altogether bad piece of writing. It just needed some word-smithing in a few places. So, here you go, Trib. Fixed it for ya!
It's unfortunate that the Medford School District has taken such a shrill approach toward the Medford Education Association and its leaders as the sides stumble toward a possible strike. It's unfortunate the district gave its teachers more reason to walk by unilaterally implementing a contract a week before it was necessary.

We all know how this likely ends if it goes to a strike: Eventually, a deal will be struck that is relatively close to the proposals already on the table. But that will happen only after nastiness that damages the district and tears apart the community.

The contract negotiations, which have been going on for 10 months, took a major turn for the worse Friday. After a lengthy mediation session on Thursday ended with no agreement, the Medford School Board voted Friday to implement its last contract offer. While there were minimal tweaks made to the offer, it is essentially a proposal that has already been rejected by the teachers' union.

That won't make the teachers happy, but the real salt in the wound was the district's decision to implement its offer a week before the end of a 30-day cooling-off period. While there is nothing in state law preventing an early implementation, it seems like an unnecessarily aggressive act, especially when they are dealing with a group on the other side of the table that is already angry over the way negotiations have gone. Not helpful if the goal is to reach an amicable settlement.

That anger has already surfaced, as the ham-handed language of the district’s proposals has led to union leaders' comments and emails asserting the district lacked sincerity, betrayed the trust of teachers and was delivering a "slap to the face" of teachers.

Everyone understands that a proposed 12 percent raise over three years (10 percent in the first year) is not what it appears. Under the district's offer, the teachers would take on a 6 percent contribution to their pension fund that was previously covered by the district. They are being asked to work more days, would see the district's payments for insurance capped and would lose an early retirement insurance benefit. Add that all up and the 12 percent shrinks rapidly.

Teaching is a tough job and no one should suggest teachers are overpaid or undeserving of respect. That's one reason we've argued that the district should make concessions on the non-economic issues. Give teachers more autonomy and opportunities for collaboration and then hold them accountable for the results. Both sides win.

It's apparently too late now. The district also should do all in its power to show the teachers respect. They don't do that when they implement a contract a week before the end of the cooling-off period and do it in a meeting held during school hours so that teachers couldn't attend.

At some point, labor impasses become about ego and anger as much as what's in the contract. If that happens here, everyone loses — the teachers, the district and, most of all, the students. It's not too late for cooler heads to prevail, but so far, all the cool heads seem to work as teachers.

1 comment :

John said...

For those keeping score, I deleted a paragraph, moved a paragraph, swapped a sentence into a different paragraph, deleted a few words, added less than 10 of my own, and removed the " " from the Association's assertions about the district, to allow the OpEd to own their reassertion.

With these changes, it becomes a completely different piece.