By Steve Gunn
WEST RIVER JUNCTION, RI – For too many years, local school boards were handicapped in the collective bargaining process by their own refusal to get tough with teachers unions or take their side of the story to the public.
Thankfully that tired old trend may be ending.
The latest evidence comes from the Chariho School Committee, which recently had the courage to announce that it would not pay for a number of employee perks listed in an expired teachers union collective bargaining agreement, including automatic annual raises, reimbursement for college tuition and longevity bonuses for teachers.
The school committee argues that the contract is expired, therefore the district has no responsibility to honor its terms, according to a news report on TheWesterlySun.com. The National Education Association Chariho insists that the terms of expired contracts should remain in effect until new pacts are negotiated, and it has filed an unfair labor practice charge against the school committee with Rhode Island state labor officials.
Of course the union would want to keep the terms of the old contract in place, so its members can keep living comfortably during negotiations. That would remove all pressure from the union to negotiate in good faith. If members are cozy with the goodies they still get from the old contract, they won’t be in a hurry for a new one.
Hats off to the Chariho School Committee for rejecting this unfair tradition.
The school committee also want on the offensive with the union by releasing a letter challenging the teachers to negotiate the new contract in public. That would break with the long, disgusting tradition of negotiating and spending the public’s money in private.
“In the interest of transparency and to let members of NEA Chariho, taxpayers and citizens of the three towns make an informed assessment of the two contract proposals, the school committee calls on NEA Chariho to waive the confidentiality agreement so that both the … initial proposals may be made public.”
The union surprised nobody by rejecting that call.
Teachers unions function best under the cover of darkness. They will seek the support of the public with vague arguments like “we haven’t had a raise in three years,” but they rarely agree to release their list of contract demands for all to inspect. The unions want public support so they can pressure school boards, but they realize their self-serving, expensive wish list would be enough to chase public support away.
We hope the Chariho School Committee takes matters one step further by releasing the unions’ list of demands. That may result in another unfair labor practices complaint, but the people will back the committee once they realize just how much money and power the union hopes to seize during contract negotiations.