So, let’s say, a few years back, Joni Balter refinanced her house. She got a good, 30-year fixed rate, not one of those adjustable, sub-prime, pieces of crap, but today she gets a letter from the bank telling her that, you know, times are tough, profits are down, and they didn’t do so well on that stress test thing, so, sorry… that 6-percent mortgage we agreed on? We’re canceling that, and your new 7-percent mortgage starts next month. Have a nice a day.
Or imagine you’re Kate Riley, and you just leased yourself a fancy new Cadillac Escalade, but GM, well, they’re struggling just to make it through the end of the month, so they deliver a Chevy Malibu instead. But the $800/month lease payment? That stays the same. Oops… sorry.
Or let’s say you’re Frank Blethen, and you’ve got $70 million in loans coming due the end of the year… only the bank now says, on second thought, we need that money today. (You know, tough times, stress test, and all that.) And if you can’t afford to pay up right now, that’s okay, we’ll just take your family newspaper and your real estate holdings and we’ll liquidate them at auction. C’est la vie.
Yeah, just imagine the howls of righteous outrage we’d hear from the Seattle Times editorial board should anybody unilaterally rewrite a legally binding contract on them. A contract is a contract is a contract, after all. Unless, of course, it’s signed between an employer and a labor union.
The letter from Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson states the district cannot renew the 182-day contract, but can offer a 181-day contract. Information on how to appeal the proposal is included.
Response by the teachers union, the Seattle Education Association, has been unhelpful and destructive. Union leaders are being purposely obtuse about the letter’s intent, even threatening legal action.
This strategy of killing the message by maligning the messenger shouldn’t work. This issue is less about the superintendent and more about tough state budget cuts.
Indeed, the letter could have been more artfully written…
Could have been more artfully written? Technically, the district just fired all 3,300 Seattle teachers… during Teacher Appreciation Week, no less! And rather than attempting to renegotiate a contract that was bargained in good faith, the Superintendent chooses to bypass the union entirely, and go directly to the individual teachers, basically telling them to sign the new contract… or else.
And the union’s “ire is uncalled for and misdirected”…?
The issue here is not about tough state budget cuts; it’s about the complete and utter disregard the district (and the Times) has shown for a legally binding contract, and the collective bargaining rights of teachers. Nobody questions the dire financial straits in which the district now finds itself, but the proper and legal way to address this particular shortfall would be to renegotiate the contract with the union, not unilaterally shove a new contract directly down the throats of teachers.
Did the union refuse to give up that 182nd day? No, they weren’t even asked. The union was never given the opportunity to even earn a little public good will by working with the Superintendent… you know, the same way the Times thinks Bank of America should work with the Columbian to renegotiate its contractual obligations:
What makes the Columbian’s plight so sad is that Southwest Washington could lose its dominant news provider because Bank of America is apparently not willing to work with the company.
Get that? When you have a legally binding contract with a struggling newspaper publisher, you have a civic responsibility to work with the company to renegotiate the terms of the deal. But when you have a legally binding contract with a labor union… well… screw them, those “unhelpful and destructive” DFH‘s.
Had the roles been reversed, had the union sent an unartful letter to Goodloe-Johnson declaring that teachers would no longer work that 182nd day, but would still be paid for it nonetheless, union officials would have been roundly ridiculed for their temerity. The Superintendent would never honor the demand, and no court would uphold such a unilateral violation of a collective bargaining agreement. And you can rest assured that the Times would never characterize the district’s ire as “misdirected.”
No, the issue here is not the 182nd day, but rather the Superintendent’s blatant disregard for the collective bargaining rights of the teachers, and her absolute failure to view the union as a constructive partner during these tough budgetary times. And I’m guessing that the Times’ own disregard for the collective bargaining rights of teachers, tells us everything we really need to know about their stance on education “reform.”