Evergreen TA and Mt. Pleasant EA joint rally
Coordinated Bargaining Councils
What is a Coordinated Bargaining Council (CBC)? A coalition of chapters within a given geographic area, usually aligned with one of CTA’s Service Centers, which provides support and resources for bargaining. Local chapters are making gains by collaborating on strategies and tactics, establishing priorities, and developing standards.
We visited CBCs around the state to learn how they give chapters confidence at the bargaining table, support during good times and bad, shared resources and expertise, and opportunities for skill building.
Tulare and Kings: Knowledge is power
By Dina Martin
Given the great distances between CTA chapters in the Great Central Valley and Sierra, it’s not always easy for members to come together, let alone hammer out mutual goals for their contract negotiations. Yet, there are rewards for those who do.
Take the 38 chapters in Tulare and Kings counties, whose leaders gather four times a year to meet in a Coordinated Bargaining Council (CBC) and participate in bargaining workshops. During the past four years of state budget cuts, they maintained the status quo and hung on to their health benefits.
The group meets to talk about the economic big picture and determine the elements needed for a fair settlement. In recent discussions, the chapters assessed what may or may not be possible this year. For example, they may not reach a 10 percent salary increase this year, but a 2 to 3 percent raise is obtainable. From there, participants settle on benefit expectations, compare local salary settlements, set goals, and talk about ways to achieve those goals. This year, of course, chapter negotiators are adding discussions about the state’s new Local Control Funding Formula, Common Core State Standards and Smarter Balanced assessments.
In “traditional” CBCs, chapters make pledges to bargain together for the same salary increases and benefits. However, the Tulare-Kings CBC acts more like a clearinghouse that provides tools, information and goals for local negotiators. Those chapters participating in the bargaining council tend to do better than those who don’t, according to CTA staff.
“I look at it as ‘Knowledge is power,’” says David Bertles, president of the 200-member Tulare County Office of Education Teachers Association.
Participating in the sessions makes Bertles appreciate the relationship his chapter has with the superintendent, who works with and values the members of the association. Negotiations have been amicable over the years, and even in the downturn, members received fully funded benefits, Bertles says. If anything, other chapters can look to the Tulare County association contract to know what’s possible.
“I think we give encouragement to others,” says Bertles.
Angelina Ogata, co-president of the Dinuba Teachers Association, is convinced that without coordinated bargaining, her chapter of 311 members might have had seven days cut from the calendar and had cuts in benefits, bigger classes, and fewer teachers.
“Finding out what is going on in everyone else’s district helps keep us all on the same page. We were all going through the same thing, but we had a goal and we were at least able to maintain the status quo,” she says.
Now that Proposition 30 has been passed and the state is in better financial shape, Ogata is noticing members calling for a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).
“But COLA is really a small part of it compared to a salary increase,” she says. “If we didn’t go to the Coordinated Bargaining Council, we might have settled for a COLA, rather than looking for a raise in pay.”
Bay Area: Networking is power
By Mike Myslinski
From organizing local communities to beating back school district demands for salary and benefit cuts, Bay Area bargaining coalitions are actively accomplishing union work that touches many classrooms and neighborhoods.
Teachers know that networking is power, says Brian Wheatley, president of the Evergreen Teachers Association in San Jose, whose members just ended an 18-month contract fight by ratifying a new contract on Sept. 26 that provides a 3 percent raise and protects a health benefits trust for retirees. Neighboring CTA chapter members helped close the deal by appearing at protest rallies and school board meetings as part of a coalition strategy of the Mount Hamilton Coordinating Council.
“Thanks to our coalition council, our school board trustees knew that the South Bay was watching their actions and that educators were concerned about the choices they were making,” Wheatley says. “The strategy of solidarity really works.”
His council meets regularly in Santa Clara County with educators from nine school districts, including Alum Rock, Berryessa, East Side Union High School District, Franklin-McKinley, Milpitas and Mt. Pleasant. As Evergreen’s fight escalated, other chapter members brought water and snacks to the Evergreen picket lines, and many attended a key June 13 school board meeting in a show of solidarity.
Other coalitions target entire communities. In addition to bargaining issues, the Cordelia Leadership Council tackles community building.
The council consists of educators from five school districts in Napa and Solano counties — Vallejo, Fairfield-Suisun, Vacaville, Napa and Travis — that support a group called Common Ground to mobilize local cities around education and social issues, says Christal Watts, president of the Vallejo Education Association, which helped launch the community mobilizing effort.
Watts says the other Cordelia Council members are exploring whether to join Common Ground and pay dues for its community organizing staff, as Vallejo teachers do. The Common Ground group sent an organizer to a recent council meeting. “She was able to talk to all of the chapter presidents in the room and explain their goals,” Watts says.
In recent years, her council members shared furlough cuts strategies for collective bargaining purposes as school districts coped with huge cuts.
Discussions about training needs at her council resulted in Vallejo educators planning a free Nov. 14 workshop about professional rights and responsibilities titled “Sex, Drugs and Rock ’n’ Roll,” which is open to all educators in the council’s area. Location info is at www.myvea.org.
San Benito County educators are also finding there is wisdom in CTA chapters meeting and sharing.
“Coordinated bargaining is a strategy that has proven effective in San Benito County over the past several years,” says Joyce Medeiros, president of the Aromas/San Juan Teachers Association, one of five CTA chapters working together in that area. The others are the San Benito High School Teachers Association, the Hollister Elementary School Teachers Association, the North County Teachers Association, and the Southside Teachers Association.
“Given the close proximity of these districts, it made sense for the associations to work together on their bargaining proposals in order to prevent the districts from playing one chapter against the other,” Medeiros says.
She recalls how this process paid off to stop districts from the unequal compensation of some teachers attending the same workshops offered by the San Benito County Office of Education.
“The superintendents had never experienced this type of increased bargaining strength by San Benito County local associations and could not justify to local presidents why some teachers were paid for 7.5 hours and others for 5 hours for attending the same training,” she says.
“Coordinated bargaining helped the local chapters with improved settlements that would be difficult to achieve if acting alone.”
Orange County: Chapters profit in good times and bad
By Bill Guy and Dave Brown
During the double-digit salary hikes of the early 2000s and the drastic cuts after the economic collapse of 2008, local CTA chapters throughout Orange County profited from participating in the work of active, successful Coordinated Bargaining Councils (CBCs).
Reaching parity in local chapter contract negotiations is the goal when chapter presidents, bargaining chairs and team members, CTA Negotiations and Organizational Development specialists, and primary contact staff meet. The meetings occur in January, May and August, timed around the governor’s initial budget proposal, the May revise and the end of summer budget adoption each year.
“We know that superintendents talk to each other and compare notes on bargaining, so it only makes sense that we do the same,” says Armon Akerboom, Garden Grove Education Association bargaining chair. “Sometimes another local will experience something for the first time and provide a heads-up to other members of the council.”
“If you go back to 2000-01, when the state was flush with funding and Gov. Gray Davis repaid schools for deficits from statutory COLAs in the late 1990s, CBCs spearheaded concerted efforts to coordinate bargaining that would place those dollars on salary schedules,” says Kendall Vaught, Los Alamitos educator and CTA Board member, an active participant in the OC meetings. The vast majority of OC chapters negotiated double-digit raises that year, when “It’s Double Digit Time!” buttons were common.
“During the last five years or so of the recent fiscal crisis, the coordinated CBC effort among Orange County chapters focused on maintaining the educators’ daily rate of pay whenever possible. Now, we’re aiming for a more coordinated strategy, taking a leadership role in the implementation of the Local Control Funding Formula [LCFF] and Common Core curriculum,” says Michael Stone, Capistrano teacher and CTA Board member.
"Coordinating Bargaining Council has been an invaluable source of support. From informative state budget presentations to charts comparing local district settlements, it would have been a much more difficult time than it already was without our CBC meetings,” says T.J. Prendergast, president of the Tustin Educators Association.
Geography favors good participation from many chapters that represent CTA members in the county’s 28 closely clustered school districts. At a typical meeting, CTA Board members and staff provide an update of the current status of the state budget, followed by a Q&A and bargaining status reports from participating chapters. Then participants engage in facilitated dialogue to elicit a group consensus about which common goals can serve as guidelines for bargaining by individual chapters.
“Time is reserved at CBCs to ask questions specific to our local's circumstances, allowing us to fact-check information coming from the districts,” says Anaheim Secondary Teachers Association President Joanne Fawley. “The knowledge CTA Negotiations and Organizational Development specialists share is crucial to our success.”
Currently, as California schools face implementation of the LCFF and the Common Core State Standards, Orange County’s CBC conversations revolve around such topics as the right of chapters under California’s Educational Employment Relations Act to consult with districts about issues of curriculum and instruction, how Common Core funding will be used for staff development to help educators meet the new guidelines, and how new LCFF funding for students of greatest need can be most effectively used to improve the instructional environment for students and educators.
Los Angeles: Mutual assistance, support and skill building
By Frank Wells
We visited with Scott Miller, member of the Hawthorne Elementary Teachers Association, and John Petersen, president of the Association of Rowland Educators, to learn how the Coordinated Bargaining Council (CBC) that they co-chair is making a difference for local chapters in Los Angeles County.
How does coordinated bargaining work?
Scott: We try to meet with all the presidents and bargaining chairs in our local area and make sure we’re all on the same page. We come up with standards we can agree on, and try to make sure one settlement doesn’t adversely affect others. If someone has to take a significant cut or furloughs, we ask them to try and delay settlement, and conversely, if a chapter is going to do well, it benefits everyone if they settle early.
John: Right, we want to make sure nobody sets a bad precedent either financially or professionally. I’m chair of the CTA State Council Financing Public Education Committee, so I put a priority on budget analysis and helping our chapters with data crunching. If we can show a district is consistently way off in projecting its ending balances, it helps our chapters make the case for putting the money they know is going to be there into the classroom or personnel. I’ve been working with a bandwidth analysis that rates districts on how accurate or inaccurate they are. We try and have some fun with the data, and hopefully get the districts to change their behavior if they’re hoarding money.
Scott: We also provide training and staff support, especially to locals in crisis.
How widespread is regular participation?
Scott: It’s good. We had about 35 locals at our first meeting last year, and we get participation from our classified and charter units in addition to K-12.
John: We have over three-fourths of the service center that are regular participants.
What are the bargaining priorities for this year?
Scott: We’ll be meeting for the first time this year shortly, but a top priority is going to be making sure people understand the new Local Control Funding Formula. The new flexibility is an opportunity to make up for some of the losses of the past several years.
John: We’ll be comparing notes about our respective districts and how management is approaching the LCFF, while we set our own standards and priorities. We’ll also be looking at the bargaining implications connected to the new Common Core State Standards.
How do the locals keep up with each other throughout the year?
Scott: We’re constantly communicating. In addition to the CBC meetings, the same locals meet at Service Center Council meetings. We schedule CBC meetings after the January state budget and the May Revise. Our CTA Board member is helpful with communication and making sure locals get assistance if they need it.
John: We’re good about staying in touch between meetings — keeping email threads going with the latest info on settlements or answer questions about what’s happening in our districts. There’s overlap on other issues because we also have coordinated organizing teams that support bargaining and we keep each other appraised of endorsed school board candidates so members who live in locals where they don’t teach know what that local chapter is doing and who they are recommending for board seats.
Do you find the CBCs effective tools?
Scott: Absolutely. Without them, we’d be operating in a vacuum to a certain extent.
John: It’s a great opportunity for mutual assistance, training, and building skills.
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