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.”