Bargaining Update – August 8, 2015

You don’t like our offer? Too bad.

After weeks discussing the minor miscellany of our contract provisions, management left negotiations Friday after making its refusal to compromise clear: WEA hasn’t moved since Day One on any serious financial issue. They’re not going to move. And they don’t care if two-thirds of WEASO members’ pay is frozen next year before major takeaways in 2016.

“Our position hasn’t changed,” management bargainer Armand Tiberio said. “We came in from Day One and said we just want to extend the agreement for one year.”

“Extend” means no make-up for the loss to inflation on our salary schedule over the past four years, which had salary adjustments of 0-0-2-2. No Cost-of-Living adjustment for the coming year. No increase to our HRA health care debit cards.

Management has steadfastly refused to engage in a give-and-take discussion throughout this bargain on financial issues: Any contract proposal from WEASO that would meaningfully impact our members’ pay or help ensure that WEA begins to plan for how we will continue to operate efficiently as an organization — even if we are dealt a major setback next year by the U.S. Supreme Court — has been met with a repeated “No.”

    • “No” to creating equitable workloads or dealing with huge staffing disparities that create untenable and unhealthy workloads in some field offices.
    • “No” to committing to maintaining staff as a priority ahead of consultants, travel, banquet dinners or out of town conferences if WEA does indeed face a severe financial crisis.
    • “No” to refusing to spy on WEA employees with video surveillance, computer searches, keystroke tracking and more — despite suggesting they wouldn’t do that anyway, and despite a huge battle led by the union over improper video surveillance at school in WEA’s President Kim Mead’s home district.
    • “No” to allowing WEA employees to contribute a small amount of money to our own pension plan.
      “No” to acknowledging that inflation losses in our pay really are actual losses in buying power.
    • “No” to a modest pay package that is far below WEA’s own stated goals for its members.

“I’ve never represented that there’s a financial crisis,” Tiberio said. “We have the money.” And it’s true. WEA is in perhaps its strongest financial position ever, but wants to freeze employee salaries now and potentially roll back pay and benefits next year. Tiberio said WEA just isn’t willing to spend any more than the cost of rolling the contract because staff make enough money already. Besides, he argued, a third of our newer staff will still get their increment step so WEA is adding new money to compensation.

Despite the WEA Board’s statewide goal of 5/5/5 percent raises for members above the state’s COLA for three years, despite the 11 percent raises WEA staff are fighting for educators in some locals to gain parity with the increases accepted by state legislators, despite raises as high as 22.8 percent for some WEA members that were successfully negotiated this summer, Tiberio refuses to acknowledge his own hypocrisy and lack of union values when arguing to freeze WEASO members’ pay.

WEASO has consciously worked to deliver extremely modest financial proposals: a 3 percent COLA next year and a similar adjustment in Year 2 if we reach a multi-year agreement.

In return, Tiberio has refused to make nearly any financial counter-offer beyond “No” (the biggest exception being a proposed 2 percent stipend for attorneys). He has refused to entertain any additional year in contract duration unless it contains full financial reopeners that will deliberately leave WEASO in a worse bargaining position next year. Management has repeatedly insisted it wants a one-year contract and has signaled that WEA plans to seek significant concessions this time next year in every economic area of our contract, including pay, medical benefits and pension. Tiberio repeatedly suggested management’s fear is uncertainty over WEA’s financial picture if the Supreme Court rules against public employee unions — but he also said the management team has already rejected every scheme they could imagine to create “triggers” that reflect whether contract reopeners are justified based on how the court rules and how severely it impacts WEA.

Management has made its position clear: No to any financial compromises this year, then be prepared next year for WEA to come after any and every part of our compensation package. Tiberio’s attitude is clear as well:

What’s WEASO gonna do about it?