Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Seattle Education Association Tentative Contract Vote - High Drama?

I've been hearing from different people (and keeping my ear to the ground) and it seems that the vote tonight  on the tentative contract -  at Benaroya Hall at 5 p.m. - may be closer than previously thought.  There was very nearly a tie in the last school rep vote. 

This is worrying because even if the contract is approved, having a large number of the teaching corps coming into class feeling defeated/unhappy, is not a good way to start the school year.  

Why?  It would seem to be a combination of issues.
1) some grassroots pushback on the terms of the contract (and confusion over different points)
2) a general feeling of unhappiness about SEA leadership
3) a feeling that what is in the contract is not being adequately explained to either teachers or supporters (i.e. parents/community)

- evaluation - the complaint is that they will have to be evaluated in two ways.  One via a state evaluation system and then a second district evaluation.  They complain that no other teachers in the state will have to do this.  My understanding is that this is because the teachers agreed to a specific SPS evaluation and now, because of changes in the law, would have to agree to the state one.  In some ways, despite their discomfort, it almost seems their hands are tied.

Measuring student growth based on standardized tests seems a tricky thing.  You'd have to see how the ENTIRE evaluation lines up.

You could see the problems down the road if a teacher passes one and not the other.  And, is one evaluation more fair, more solid than the other?

- I think the union may have won a point with the district backing off adding more time to elementary teachers' days (but not in the classroom) but it would have been great if that time HAD been added but only to restore the time lost from art, music and PE.

- looks like the caseload issue for ESAs is also mushy.  The SEA can work on lower caseloads but it doesn't sound like there's any firm number for how many each ESA has.

- Compensation - boy is this a hot potato.  Sherry Carr said recently that Seattle teachers were the best paid in the state.  Over at the Washington Policy Center, they have some very high number for the average salary (but I think they included benefits to inflate the actual salary) and, according to the SEA, Seattle is 4th in compensation in the Puget Sound region and 8th statewide. 

I can only say here that the teachers haven't had a COLA in over five years and has their workload increased?  It has. 


Eric B said...

How close have the SEA votes for leadership been lately? At least on this forum, there seems to be a lot of dissatisfaction among teachers in the leadership. Is that translating to a serious challenge at election time?

Anonymous said...

Whether they feel they are in the right or not, I hope that teachers advocating for a "no" vote or a strike realize how many in the private sector have it and may not be sympathetic.

I have two yearly evaluations, whether I like it or not; my hours have been cut, but I've had additional work added to my job description as other workers have been phased out. I have no benefits as a PT worker.

My husband has what many would consider a "cushy" job, but had to take a number of days off with no pay in lieu of a layoff. No pay increase for him either, and we pay more for health care benefits.

It's the same everywhere-looks to me like the teachers are better of than some of us.

Head Scratcher

Melissa Westbrook said...

Head Scratcher, you have presented this issue of many workers - from all types of jobs - having had to made changes/concessions in their jobs over the last several years. Thanks for doing it in a calm fashion (over at the Times, they just blast the teachers for even asking questions).

Anonymous said...

Head Scratcher, I understand where you are coming from as I have been there too and now work as a contractor with no benefits but do we really want to see others dragged down to this level? Our position will not improve by dragging others down. It is starting to look like it is time for another workers revolution.


Anonymous said...

One of the problems is that participation in SEA is pretty bad - and it's not because people are unhappy with the leadership, it's because they're sick of meetings and air time being hijacked by a small group of teachers who want us to debate things like the Alaska Pipeline and worker strikes in Nigeria. Few people have time for that, so they don't come to the rep meetings.

If reasonable, passionate teachers showed up to union events and participated, participation would be more fun for all of us. There may very well be a vote to strike passed tonight if people do not show up to Benaroya, and that would be a shame.

The majority of Seattle teachers are apathetic. They're apathetic about what collective bargaining gets us, they're apathetic about the process. They have disengaged, and so we may have a strike on our hands just because a small group of teachers think it's something we should do.

joanna said...

Head Scratcher, teachers are evaluated. State employees were furloughed. Unions came into being to protect and advocate for reasonable working conditions and compensation. Good jobs should be the pride of the US. They help set the standard. Generally the existence of public employee unions help ensure a more efficient use of public money and a better understanding of the public policies. I would think that this is likely in the private sector also. Certainly, I would support a public health care plan that did not require coverage related to a job. When is the private sector going to get on board with this? Wages for almost all workers, except the CEO types,have suffered over the decades while cooperate profits have increased .

Anonymous said...

There WAS a tie. Knapp broke the tie by voting "yea" himself.

-Sleeping In?

Anonymous said...

Just to clarify-I am not against the teachers voting however they see fit. I have friends and family in unions and who are teachers-I understand. I know what they go through and they've gotten the short end more than once. But I know many MORE people who think teachers have it easy, that they don't work FT, that they want more than they deserve (as Melissa pointed out is being said on other comment pages). My point was that I don't think there will be a lot of buy-in from the public (not ME) if Seattle teachers strike.

The example I gave of my family's situation doesn't mean that I want to bring teachers down, but I'm only one of many-and some of those "many" might find teachers' demands something they can't abide.

That attitude is out there, in quantity.

Head Scratcher

Anonymous said...

The public will not support this strike. It would be a huge mistake to strike over any of these issues. The public sees that teachers have an excellent benefits package, that teachers have money put into our retirement account - no one else gets that. While many of us work long days and during the summer, the reality is that we are paid hourly and our hours are for 9 months of the year. That's what the public sees. And it comes out of their taxes.

The public will not support or appreciate that we are shutting schools down over the issues in this contract.

Bigger class sizes? That's a strikable issue. No raise at all? That's strikeable. Student growth ratings that automatically put a teacher on probation? Strikeable. But not this TA.

Anonymous said...

This just in from Banda.

Well played, Banda!

To all SEA-represented employees, both classified and certificated:

It has come to my attention that you may be receiving mixed information about your ability to leave your buildings today for the purpose of attending the SEA membership meeting.

All SEA members, both certificated and classified, are authorized to leave your work site no later than 3:15 p.m. so that you have the opportunity to attend the SEA membership meeting.

I have sent a message to principals and program mangers to let them know that this is authorized.

Thank you.

José Banda

José Banda
Seattle Public Schools

- SeaTeach

Anonymous said...

Knapp broke the tie with his own vote? Doesn't speak well for teacher buy-in of the contract or his leadership. Don't know the man, but a 'positive' contract offer put out by union leadership should not be so close. Today will be interesting. Like the parents in the district, my children's teachers love their school and cannot stand district administration, so no telling how they will vote.

Anonymous said...

SavvyVoter above.

Anonymous said...

Employee compensation has been eroding the last 30 years. Even the Feds did away with the traditional pension plan 20+ years ago. If you want a worker revolution, join the hotel, fast food, Seatac workers. I agree a teacher's strike will not garner much public sympathy.

Crazy as it sounds, people are envious of teachers contract and their ability to bargain, not to mention the time off during school breaks. People are used to working beyond their paid time, losing lunch hour and breaks, eating on the go, taking work home, paying for contact hours coursework using their own dime and personal time to stay viable, watching health care premiums go up annually, unble to take vacation because there's no one to cover your job or your boss will only grant 3 days off at a time. That's the squeeze many are in. Being a loyal, productive, senior worker with excellent eval doesn't save you from lay off notice either.


Charlie Mas said...

There's a middle ground here.

I think it is possible, if not likely, that the teachers could vote to reject the agreement but not vote to strike.

In the event that they reject the proposed agreement they will continue to work under the existing agreement.

If they don't strike, I don't think they will lose much public support, even if they don't accept the proposed contract.

joanna said...

squeezed, your points are exactly why all of us have to begin standing up for fair and healthful standards in the work place, all work places. The more these are eroded in bargaining, the more they will be eroded in other workplaces.

Anonymous said...

Joanna is correct. Historically unions' gains in the workplace have resulted in gains for all workers across the board. As Americans, we need to be pushing employers to compensate their rank and file workers more and their Executive Boards less.

This "I'm being treated like garbage, so everyone else should be too," attitude has got to stop. Do we really want the teaching profession to become a last resort for those unable to find employment elsewhere? It will be if we allow teachers to be treated like fast food workers instead of the professionals they are.

Solvay Girl

Anonymous said...

I'll support whatever the teachers decide, and that includes going back to the table. They are not expendable. They are professionals.

Mr. White

Anonymous said...

I'm also very glad Mr. Banda clarified their ability to vote.

Mr. White

Anonymous said...

Who said treat people like garbage? But teachers want support in their bargaining. Fair enough for asking, but that doesn't mean teachers and all of us can't support fast food and hotel workers too. They may not be professionals, but to demean what they do and their protest for better pay is no different (or far worse) than when people run out of sympathy for teachers. Are we in this together only when it's over my pay, my benefits or it's for all workers? For those workers who do work two jobs to make ends meet, their children will be the ones who will need more support from teachers.


Charlie Mas said...

The teachers ratified the contract.

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