Thursday, December 31, 2009

Tentative Agreement Reached Today

We met with district negotiators at the Bureau of Mediation Services today. We have reached a tentative agreement. The district made significant financial moves and dropped controversial language items. The financial package is not all we wanted, however given current economic conditions, our AHEM team believes this is an acceptable offer.

The next step is for the AHEM Executive Board to vote on sending the tentative agreement to the membership for a vote. Our Board will meet on Monday, January 4th at 4:30 pm. A Representative Assembly will follow at 6:00 pm to hear the specifics of the proposal.

Next, members will receive written details in their buildings by Tuesday, January 5th. Members will have a week to consider the proposal. AHEM Negotiators will hold informational meetings on Wednesday, January 6th and Thursday January 7th (specific locations and times to be announced shortly). If approved by the Executive Board and Representative Assembly, a vote will be held on January 11th with absentee balloting on January 12th.

We believe that the work of our members made all the difference in getting an agreement before the January 15th deadline. Your letters, emails, work actions, and support were the most important motivation.

As we have reached a tentative agreement, we are suspending work to rule.

Thank you so much for all of your work and we look forward to sharing the details with you soon!

Your negotiators,
Sandy, Paul, Vicki, LeMoyne, David, Gary, and Julie

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

12-15-09 Mediation Session

We met with district negotiators at the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services today. We are shocked at games the district is attempting to play with our settlement.

First, a little history. This round, the district said it was all about resolving the budget challenges we are facing. So, our response was to use actual budget numbers to make sure our offer included our fair share of the load. But at our last session, we were lectured by the district on how we must use their system, which conveniently made our package appear more expensive than it really was.

We agreed to give that a try. Using their costing system, even their own spreadsheet, we met their financial offer today.

In response, at the eleventh hour, they decided to roll out yet another costing system - one we that is entirely new to us - to claim that after that move, we are now actually $4 million apart.

So to sum up, we began the day believing we were $3 million apart by the district's own calculations. We reduced our offer by $3 million, and naturally assumed a settlement was close at hand. The district responded by trying to change the rules so they could claim we were an additional $4 million apart.

Using multiple budget systems to create a moving target is unprecedented, unfair, and highly unethical. Clearly, this is not about solving a budget issue, but trying to take advantage of hard times. In addition, they seem to be willing to give a million dollars back to the state before they will bargain honestly and openly with educators that work so hard for our students.

We need the district to know that we will not stand for unfair treatment in bargaining. We will begin work to rule district wide tomorrow and encourage members to contact the school board to tell them to play fair. Your action will be needed to make this settlement happen.

Watch your email - we'll keep you posted,

Your Negotiators - Paul, Sandy, Vicki, LeMoyne, David, Gary, and Julie

Monday, December 14, 2009

AHEM Representative Assembly Unanimously Approves Work to Rule

At tonight's meeting of the Representative Assembly*, AHEM building representatives voted unanimously to begin work to rule** district wide starting this Wednesday, until the negotiations team believes we are at a point that would warrant its suspension.

This is not an easy decision for educators to make, as those at the 30 sites who have already begun work to rule can attest. However, we believe it is time for significant action on our part, to motivate the district to take significant action on theirs.

We will be in mediation tomorrow and will update you on our progress as soon as we can,
Your Negotiators - Paul, Sandy, Vicki, LeMoyne, David, Gary, and Julie

*AHEM's Representative Assembly is our local union's highest governing body and is made up of representatives from each site.

** Work to rule is an action common used by many unions. It is where educators only do only those things specified in the contract and for which they are actually compensated. This includes coming in right at the beginning of the contractual work day and leaving right at the end, not doing extra work outside of the duty day, and not volunteering for additional activities that are not compensated. The goal is to show our unity and call attention to all the extra work educators do for free.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Press Release: Teachers Call on the District to Get Serious About Settling

FYI: This is the press release we sent out today hoping to increase the district's motivation to move toward a fair settlement as soon as possible:

Anoka-Hennepin teachers call on district to ‘get serious’ about settling the contract. Jan.15 deadline looms, with possible $1 million penalty to district

Dec. 8, 2009 – Coon Rapids, Minn. – The 2,900 teachers of the Anoka Hennepin school district are calling on the district to come to the table Dec. 15 ready to settle the teachers’ contract, which expired June 30. Dec. 15 is the next scheduled mediated negotiation session between the teachers and District 11.

“It’s time,” said Sandra Skaar, president of Anoka Hennepin Education Minnesota (AHEM), the union that represents the teachers of District 11. “Negotiations are coming down to the wire, and it’s time for the district to get serious about bargaining a reasonable and competitive contract.”

If the contract is not settled by a state-mandated Jan. 15 deadline, a penalty of $1 million ($25 per student) will be assessed to the school district. “After all the work we’ve done to gain community support, that’s a mistake the district cannot afford to make,” Skaar said.

Skaar added that the Dec. 15 bargaining session is the “last, best chance” to get the contract settled and beat the deadline, since getting any settlement ratified by 2,900 teachers in the state’s largest district will take a significant amount of time.

According to AHEM negotiators, other relevant facts in the negotiations process include:

* AHEM teachers took early action and voted to sacrifice staff development funds to save the district nearly $2 million.
* Teachers put in hundreds of hours to help the district pass its levy earlier this fall, which at least helped the district maintain current funding levels.
* Rather than address crucial financial matters, the district has chosen to focus on inflammatory language items in the contract.
* The district has not cut administration at the same rate that it has teachers based on a decline in student population.

“Teachers have done our fair share,” Skaar said. “We want to get this done, and we want to do it right, and on time. The recent levy victory demonstrates how successful we can be when we all work together. We need to settle this contract now so we can get back to our number-one priority — educating the students of Anoka Hennepin.”

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

November 25th Mediation Session

Where we are: We met with district negotiators at the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation today. We were prepared to make creative offers and stay right up until the turkey came out of the oven on Thanksgiving. The district made virtually no movement. It is clear they do not feel any real urgency to reach a settlement at this time.

We have set the next possible date to meet with the Bureau, which is December 15th.

It's Time: We need your help in motivating the district. They need to see the importance of coming to the table ready to do real work to reach a settlement. We have two activities already scheduled to do just that.

On Thursday, wear your red to Meet & Confer to support a discussion of diversity and workload issues in the district. We have a slate of speakers scheduled to communicate just how hard we are working for our students, you are welcome to add your voice, but we primarily need you to add your presence to support them. The event is at 6:30 pm at the Staff Development Center this coming Thursday, December 3rd.

If there are any postcards still left to complete in your building, take a moment to send a personal request to our school board to be actively involved in moving this process to a fair conclusion.

Continue your site based activities, and even ramp them up. Special thanks to the over 150 of you who could make it out to the school board meeting this past Monday. Your work is gaining visibility and becoming increasingly effective - keep up the good work!

Thank you for all your work so far, and all you will do in these next crucial weeks. Your support means a lot to us, and more importantly, to your colleagues.

We'll keep you posted,

Your Negotiators - Paul, Sandy, Vicki, LeMoyne, David, Gary, and Julie

Monday, November 23, 2009

School Board Meeting Goes Red

Tonight, over 150 AHEM members delivered over 1,950 signatures on petitions asking the school board to move our negotiations forward. John Wolhaupter spoke on behalf of the members and reiterated the need for the district to do the right thing so we can focus on educating our students, and avoid a $1 million fine for not being settled by January 15th. The room was full beyond capacity and a lovely shade of red. Thanks to all who came out to help us reach a fair, professional settlement. Stay tuned - we are back in mediation this Wednesday.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

We Did It! The Levy Renewal Passes with 59% of the Vote

We are so grateful for all of your support of the Anoka Hennepin Levy Renewal - this will make a big difference in our classrooms. In these tough economic and cynical times, we really appreciate what you did to give us this win with 59% of the vote.

Special thanks to the over 100 members who helped make direct contact with voters through our phone bank; the over 200 members who helped write personal postcards; the legislators, parents, students, and vendors who assisted with our efforts; our staff at the state Education Minnesota office, America Votes, and the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation for all the infrastructure work; and all those who helped with the organization of our activities. With so many doing their part to get the message out, this was an effective and exhilarating campaign.

We just can't thank you all enough.

Here are the current numbers on all the races in our district:


YES 17590
NO 12389







Monday, October 19, 2009

October 19th Mediation Session

Today we met with district negotiators at the Bureau of Mediation Services. We don't have much to report - the district moved a small amount on language items, but not at all on the economic package. We did schedule another day for mediation on Wednesday, November 25th. Normally, we don't meet on days when we don't have school, but we want to do what we can to avoid problems with the January 15th deadline*.

We'll keep you posted,
Your Negotiators - Paul, Sandy, Vicki, LeMoyne, David, Gary, and Julie

* Districts that are not settled with their teachers by January 15th face fines levied by the state. In Anoka-Hennepin's case, those fines could be nearly $2 million. We have provisions in AHEM bylaws that require a certain amount of time for member notification and hearings before a contract vote, so people can make an informed decision. As a result, we actually need to have a tentative agreement by the beginning of winter break to make that deadline.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

September 22nd Mediation Session

AHEM and District negotiators met today at the Bureau of Mediation in St. Paul*. This meeting was to lay ground rules and educate our mediator on the status of our negotiations. Both sides presented our most recent economic and language proposals to clarify exactly where we agree and where we don't. We spent a significant amount of time explaining our positions and ideas very specifically. We are scheduled to meet next on Monday, October 19th.

We'll keep you posted,
Your Negotiators - Paul, Sandy, Vicki, LeMoyne, David, Gary, and Julie

*The Bureau of Mediation Services (BMS) is a state governmental organization that provides services including facilitating negotiations processes when the progress has become difficult. Our mediator will not be deciding what our contract will be, just helping us move the process along.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

August 26th Negotiations Session

We met today with district negotiators at the AHEM office. We responded to the District's last language proposal, had an extensive discussion about their "special skills" language that would undermine seniority rights, and got new language proposals from the district. The district's latest economic proposal restored our current health insurance benefits, but no movement on salaries or ABE/ECFE equity. We are concerned about the lack of movement over the past two months. We agreed to set additional meeting dates, but also told them that we will be filing for mediation*.

We'll keep you posted.

Your negotiators,

Paul, Sandy, Vicki, LeMoyne, David, Gary, and Julie

*Mediation is where a third party from the State Bureau of Mediation Services is assigned to work with the parties in reaching an agreement.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

August 19th Negotiations Session

We met with the district negotiations team at our office today. It was the district's turn to bring forward a financial counter proposal. They did not, citing as their reason not having met with the school board since our previous session. The district team did bring several language items to which we are prepared to respond at our next session. In particular, they brought forward specific language that would subvert our seniority rights, despite the fact that we have been adamantly opposed to such language from the start.

So, it will still be the district's turn to bring forward a financial proposal at our next session on Wednesday, August 26th. We'll keep you posted.

Your negotiators,

Paul, Sandy, Vicki, LeMoyne, David, Gary, and Julie

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

August 11th Negotiations Session

We met with the district negotiation's team today at our office. We made a new economic offer and they responded to our last language proposal briefly but had no other comments. All together the meeting took 20 minutes. We were surprised at the lack of comment or discussion from the district on both items.

Watch your home mail this coming week for a detailed negotiations update - we'll include specifics on our progress and rationale for our offers. Our next meeting is August 19th and we hope for a more productive session.

-We'll keep you posted - your negotiators,

Paul, Sandy, Vicki, LeMoyne, David, Gary, and Julie

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

July 28th Negotiations Session

We met today with the district negotiators at our office. The district made a new economic proposal and we responded to their language proposal, while offering new language of our own. After all the early work and effort our members put in this past winter and spring*, we are concerned that we are not making the progress we had hoped for. Watch for a mailer with specifics coming to your home mid-August.

-We'll keep you posted - your negotiators,

Paul, Sandy, Vicki, LeMoyne, David, Gary, and Julie

*Our early work included voting away control over our portion of staff development set-aside funds, using retiree savings to save positions, and meeting with the district early to reach agreement on the district’s financial picture.

Friday, July 10, 2009

July 10th Negotiations Session

Today we met with district negotiators at the ESC for our fifth contract negotiations session. We are now beyond the preliminaries and into serious bargaining. We responded to the economic offer the district made at the last session with a counter offer of our own. The district negotiators presented specific language on a number of contract language items for our consideration.

A big part of the meeting was our presenting the district with the rationale behind our economic and language offers. In building meetings, the negotiations survey, and individual communications, our members were clear in their desire to shoulder our proportionate share of the financial challenges facing our district. Based on that message, our team developed a set of principles for creating our proposals. We then took a careful look at the district budget and worked to come to agreement with the district on accurately costing our package. Once we had a principled plan and accurate numbers, we worked to creatively find a way to balance our members' needs with available funds.

Our members are also clear in not wanting business as usual when it comes to negotiations, so we are working toward a timely settlement as well. We are presenting our plans right away, being as clear as we can about our interests and principles. We are avoiding the old fashioned, time wasting style of artificially inflating proposals and holding back information so we can spend months haggling later.

In these challenging times, we will stay focused on the principles of doing our fair share and being creative in both what and how we negotiate.

Our next session will be Tuesday, July 28th with a tentative session scheduled for August 11th as well.

We'll keep you posted - your negotiators,

-Paul, Sandy, Vicki, LeMoyne, David, Gary, and Julie

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

June 30th Negotiations Session

On Tuesday, June 30th, the AHEM negotiations team met with the district team for approximately 1.5 hours. The district presented their initial economic proposal, including salaries and benefits. The district team also commented on AHEM's response to the district's language items.

In the last week, we have received a few questions from members regarding the content of the initial economic proposal that AHEM made a couple of weeks ago. The AHEM negotiations team spent many hours crafting an initial proposal that reflected the priorities identified by our members as a whole on the negotiations survey earlier this year. Those member priorities included maintaining health and dental insurance and step and lane movement, balancing those priorities with significant savings that would maintain teacher positions.

The initial AHEM economic proposal was reasonable, affordable, well thought-out and fair to all of our members. Our initial proposal, if accepted by the district, would result in minimal teacher job cuts in the 2010-11 school year, as long as all other employee groups, including administrators, agree to carry their fair share of the budget deficit over the two-year period, and the school board moves to "right size" our buildings to reflect current enrollment.

Our next bargaining session with the district will be Friday, July 10 from 9:30-11:30 a.m. The district team has stated that they will bring specific contract language proposals for us to review. AHEM plans to make additional comments on some of the district's contract language proposals. Please check after July 10 for the next update.

Your negotiators,

-Paul, Sandy, Vicki, LeMoyne, David, Gary, and Julie

June 16 Negotiations Session

We met with the district negotiators* today at the AHEM office. We presented our economic proposal and responded to the language items the district presented at the last meeting.

So, as of today, everything's pretty much on the table from both sides. The district said they will respond to our proposal at the next session. That means our next meeting on June 30th will be when the negotiating goes to the next level.

Thanks for reading and we'll keep you posted!

Your negotiators,

-Sandy, Paul, LeMoyne, Vicki, David, Gary, and Julie

*The district negotiators are General Counsel Paul Cady, Director of Labor Relations and Benefits Linda Fenwick, Sand Creek principal Paul Anderson, and Anoka High School principal Mike Farley.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

June 2nd Negotiations Session

We met with the district today. They responded to our contract language items* and the vast majority of those are still open for discussion. We in turn heard their proposed contract language items. We also got an update on the numbers that we need to create an economic proposal**.

That's our next step - AHEM negotiators will be meeting on June 9th to craft our initial economic proposal and respond to the district's contract items. We will present that proposal at our next bargaining session on June 16th.

Stay tuned....

Your Negotiators,
Paul, Sandy, Vicki, LeMoyne, David, Gary, and Julie

*Contract language items are the pieces of language that layout the specifics of our working agreement. When you can use personal days, how leaves work, what happens if you are transferred and many, many more items are examples of contract language.
**The economic proposal includes everything that has a cost, like salaries, insurance, retirement, some contract language items, and stipends.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Welcome to the 2009 Contract Negotiations!

Thank you for visiting our site! Our goal is to keep you updated on our progress in negotiating our 2009-2011 contract. After each negotiating session or other major event, our negotiators will update this page with any news or progress toward a settlement.

If you use Twitter, you can also follow us at * We will post links back here as soon as this page is updated. We'll do the same if you follow our group on Facebook, Anoka Hennepin Education Minnesota. We will also update our negotiations hotline at 651-695-2029 if you'd rather hear the updates by phone.

Enjoy your summer and let's work together for a fair, timely settlement!

Your negotiators,
Paul, Sandy, Vicky, LeMoyne, David, Gary, and Julie**

*"7007" is our local number as assigned by the AFL-CIO.
** For more information on us or the process, check out the AHEM Negotiations Page.