Bargaining Update – June 3, 2015
After months of one-on-one member conversations, surveys, ranking of issues, prioritizing and blue-printing, WEASO finally heard WEA’s opening position for bargaining.

Executive Director Armand Tiberio was short on specifics Wednesday but did lay out a few main themes: WEA wants a short-duration contract, with little interest in a long-duration contract.  Armand made no demands to do away with our defined benefit pension plan— this year. But he raised the specter that our pension is likely to be a target in coming months, after the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the fair share case against California Teachers Association.

“One of the uncertainties for the board is the uncertainty of the pension plan,” Armand said in his opening remarks.

WEASO noted management might have several reasons for delaying discussions over our pension: WEA used the last recession to argue for pension cuts, but since the economy has recovered, it’s hard for WEA to argue with a straight face that our pension is putting WEA’s finances at risk. Additionally, WEASO presumes that WEA believes it will have more leverage a year from now if the economy dips once again or a court ruling raises the real possibility of layoffs.

WEASO believes WEA is positioned well financially: membership is at record highs, revenues are up, reserves are the largest ever. WEASO recognizes the external threats facing WEA and prefers to move forward instead of getting mired in a bargaining fight, but the bargaining team is also committed to addressing the concerns our members have raised.

Armand said management doesn’t want a protracted fight, either, but that a longer contract from WEA would likely not be viewed favorably. “I don’t want anyone walking away from here to think the intent of the organization is to rip and tear the pension plan … but it is an issue,” he said. “It is a financial issue.”

WEASO believes the interests of our members are more critical than agreeing to an artificially short duration. Rolling the contract for a year, as suggested by Armand, would not deal with many of the interests expressed by WEASO members. Neither side brought specific contract proposals to the table Wednesday, but WEASO will bring a package of key issues at the next session. The two teams will next meet on Friday, June 26 with eight more dates set in July and early August.