Times to teachers: drop dead

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.”


  1. 1

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Goldy, you really can’t blame Frank Blethen for being a bit jealous. After all, at this point a $28,000-a-year teacher is making more money than he is.

  2. 2

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    I wonder if Frank is prejudiced against unions. Say, didn’t he have a run-in with a union a few years ago? I wonder if he still harbors personal bitterness that spills over into the editorial page. Meanwhile, his kid writes high-sounding platitudes about “journalism” …

  3. 3

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Typical cheap labor crapola from the rightwing-controlled mass media. So much for the myth of the so-called “liberal-biased media.” Another conservative lie plunges to the ground trailing orange flames and black smoke.

  4. 4


    No one’s in the right on this one.

    Sure, the letter was stupid, ill-timed, and improper. But the SEA knew about the issue, knew that an adjustment would be needed, knew that the 182nd day would have to come off the contract. As Chris Grygiel reported on SeattlePI.com last Friday, the district and the SEA have been negotiating this and other issues since April 20. What SEA is really doing here is posturing like WEA did in the education-reform debate during the legislative session.

    As I said, the letter was stupid. While it’s quite possible that something like it would be required as part of due diligence in restructuring the contract, the entire procedure should have been worked out in advance. It should have been accompanied by a joint statement from the SEA and school district, explaining that this was merely a pro forma letter required by the legal system.

    IOW, the entire matter shouldn’t have hit the streets until it was already fully worked out between the parties. If both sides actually wanted to be conciliatory and act like grown-ups, that’s what would have happened. Instead, it appears, both Goodloe-Johnson and the SEA are acting like unruly children.

  5. 5

    Seattle gal spews:

    The real truth is the union is lying. They knew that this was happening, they knew there was no money for that 182nd day, and they knew the letter was going out. Same union politics as always. Smile and shakes hands with the district and then yell uncle when the teachers are told. give me a break. Everyone should be happy they only want to eliminate one paid training day instead of more teachers.

  6. 6

    Seattle Jew, a true liberal spews:

    I am Shocked, Shocked!

    Teachers are professionals. They need to be paid an annual salary that recognizes the imoportnace of self study and independent activities rather than pay per hour.

    Since we do not pay teachers an appropriate annual wage, the union and the districts essentially conspire to create ways of paying teachers that are not covered under the State constitutional imperative to educate kids.

    Whatta mess!

  7. 7

    Michael spews:

    The key here is the word “renew.” The district doesn’t have to renew the contract if they don’t want to and the teachers don’t have to sign on if they don’t want to.

    The stupid thing is having teachers work 180-182 day contracts like they’re temps. or some shit.

    Pretty soon the state’s going to try to save money by hiring teachers on a day to day basis though Labor Ready or cruising by Home Depot, “if y’all can teach math to 7th graders hop in the truck.”

  8. 8

    lauramae spews:

    Maybe the Times can invest in the “Discovery Series” for Logic and work together in small groups to explore and learn about the concepts of fairness and consistency.

  9. 9

    Sam Adams spews:

    Unions and Politicos?

    Talk about dumb and dumber.

    Both have their own agendas, both portray themselves as either the good guy or victim depending which is most useful.


  10. 11

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @5 What’s wrong with teachers playing politics in a world where everyone else does? Why are workers expected to be goody-two-shoes and management can behave like Simon Legree? Why the double standard?

  11. 12

    Marvin Stamn spews:

    10. Blue John spews:
    Once again, Teachers Unions Bad, Auto Worker Union Bad.

    One could make an argument about private businesses screwing over employees.
    Teachers for some reason feel the need to have a union to protect them from the government.
    The same government that the left wants controlling their health care.
    Go figure.

  12. 13

    Right Stuff spews:

    let’s see here……

    Seattle School District says “so sorry” to the teachers union. (Democrats pissing on Democrats)

    More broadly, Democrats run the education system in this state and in Seattle. Now we have the districts saying they can’t pay per the contract, and the teachers union (democrats) are pissed.

    So we have Democrats pissing on Democrats and Goldy somehow wants to blame Frank Blethen becuase it’s the only “windmill” he has…..

    “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.”


  13. 14


    re 12: The Seattle School District is going to take care of my health care?

    If I have issues with buying pet licences, is it the “Democratic” dogcatcher that I have to blame?

  14. 15


    What a weird post. Does anyone else notice that Goldy, when addressing an issue, always brings in what the Seattle Times says about it? Look at this post’s’ headline. It’s just … odd. It should read “Goodloe to teachers: drop dead.” It’s like Goldy goes out of his way to work the Times into his posts.

  15. 16

    correctnotright spews:

    @15: Poor Troll – Does everything have to be explained at the third grade level for you to get it?

    Goldy is commenting on the Seattle times editorial and the anti-union slant. That should be obvious to anyone who can actually read.

    Poor Marvin: I thought after I proved you were a liar, you would at least run away for a while. But like a bad case of syphilis, you are back again with sores all over.

    What is your excuse this time? Your limited intelligence will only work as an excuse for so long.

    Here is a hint dimbo – the countries with the strongest unions ahve the best economies.

    Go live in a third world country with no unions if you don’t like unions – I am sure they would welcome you there.

    With no adequate education system, you would be right at home. You could listen to right wing radio all day and spout your nonsense to the working poor.

  16. 17

    ByeByeGOP spews:

    I keep hearing noise from that bitch Troll who made it sound like he wouldn’t be back here. I guess like everything else that comes from Troll’s mouth – that was a lie.

  17. 18

    Blue John spews:

    Is that true? the countries with the strongest unions have the best economies? That seems like it would be a strong argument if there was proof.

    I know the French said that they didn’t need to help prop up the global economy any more, they already had a safety net for their citizens. They had not outsourced their safety net to corporations.

    Does Italy and Fiat have universal health care? Is that how they are able to buy our companies?

  18. 19


    Blue John asks:

    Does Italy and Fiat have universal health care? Is that how they are able to buy our companies?

    Fiat plays no part in healthcare for Italians. Like every civilized and sensible nation, Italy has a government-sponsored universal healthcare system.

    And yes, the lower costs probably do play some role in their ability to buy American companies bleeding blood-red ink. Though unless Fiat can help to force the United States to come to its senses and move to universal single-payer healthcare, our crazy (non)system will suck them dry too.

  19. 20

    Seattle Jew, a true liberal spews:

    @18 Blue John

    Is that true? the countries with the strongest unions have the best economies? That seems like it would be a strong argument if there was proof.

    That is an interesting question, though it may be difficult to disentangle unions from socialism. SWeden, France have strong unions but they are also socialist.

    Jaoan has a corporatist, sort of democratic fascist, system and strong unions.

    I think one needs to take a longer perspective. In a global economy, jobs will inevitably flatten. Ecology alone dictates that the world can not sustain expanding the Euro-American standard of living to huge numbers of Indians and Chinese .. the Earth may not have the thermal capacity to make that possible.

    The danger from Unions is less a threat to capitalism than it is to free trade. France, despite its membership in the EU, still manages to protect its farmers. Same is true for Japan. This means that the net cost of doing anything in France is higher than it is here. We do the same thing for sugar and other farm goods and seem likely to make carz a protected species as well.

    We do have one hidden advantage over our competitors. We are, AFIK, the only society that still taxes employers for the costs of health care. In that sense we lose productivity, Hell, if That One is successful in unbundling healthcare as a business expense, US productivity .. already relatively high .. will get a huge boost!

  20. 21

    Marvin Stamn spews:

    16. correctnotright spews:
    Go live in a third world country with no unions if you don’t like unions – I am sure they would welcome you there.

    Go live in a country that has free health care if you are against paying for your own health care.
    If you want to prove me a liar, I’m throwing down the gauntlet.
    75. correctnotright spews:
    and you threaten people like the wimp you are….
    05/11/2009 AT 7:40 AM

    Prove it.

  21. 22

    Marvin Stamn spews:

    19. N in Seattle spews:
    Fiat plays no part in healthcare for Italians. Like every civilized and sensible nation, Italy has a government-sponsored universal healthcare system.

    Nice link.
    From the first paragraph…
    Despite the high rankings by the WHO, Italians are dissatisfied with the quality of their care. Italians believe more patient choice will improve quality, but “given the general dysfunction of the Italian political system, and the entrenched opposition of special interest groups, substantial reform is not likely anytime soon.”
    A few more nuggets from the same link…
    Health care spending rose by 68% between 1995 and 2003.

    Funding. Funding is based on a regressive payroll tax
    There is a shortage of medical technology in Italy. The U.S. has twice as may MRI units per million than Italy
    Waiting times are fairly long for diagnostic tests. The average wait for a mammogram is 70 days, for endoscopy 74 days. Tanner notes that: “Ironically, the best-equipped hospitals in northern Italy have even longer waiting lists since they draw patients from the poorer southern regions as well.”

    Is this your definition of “civilized and sensible nation?”

  22. 23

    CC "Bud" Baxter spews:

    State government lies to state employees all the time.

    A few years ago they wanted people to switch from the then current retirement plan, called PERS2, to a hybrid plan where you got half the retirement, but you were able to save in a 401K for the rest. They called it PERS3. They knew this wasn’t the best deal, so they agreed to match the total you had in your current retirement account at 55%. This gave you a nice start on the 401K portion. Next they offered something called “gain sharing,” which basically means in good years where the pension investment fund performed well, you got some money to add to your 401K.

    The first time the state actually had to make good on this promise and pay gain sharing, state government reneged on the deal and took it away. So PERS3 people got it exactly one year, not what we bargained for, which was for the foreseeable future. (For reference, when the economy tanks, like it is right now, gain sharing would not have paid one penny.)

    They were not bargaining in good faith for even one second.

    Last summer we ended negotiations and bargained for raises that basically amounted to 1.6% per year. We voted and approved the contract. The governor withdrew the entire pay raises after supposedly bargaining in good faith. It wasn’t her call to withdraw the raises she bargained for in good faith. That was the legislators call. She basically circumvented the entire collective bargaining process, thus showing it was completely bogus from the get go.

    As a state employee, I think state government are lying sacks of shit, no better than 100 years ago where they were signing “treaties” with native Americans, only to throw them in the trash when inconvenient.

  23. 24


    Oh Marvin, you dumbass…

    On Italy, you note that

    Health care spending rose by 68% between 1995 and 2003.

    Yes, only 68%.

    In a quick search, I didn’t find the exact same years for the United States. The closest I could find on Table 1 of this PDF file was bracketed around 1995. Total national health expenditures came to:

    $912.5 billion in 1993
    $1,124.9 billion in 1997
    $1,734.9 billion in 2003

    On a percentage basis, the 1993–>2003 increase was 90%, and the 1997–>2003 increase came to 54%. So 1995–>2003 is somewhere between those two values (the mean is 72%).

    Of course, Italian healthcare expenditures are much lower that the US on a per capita or % of GDP basis, so the effect on the economy is proportionately greater in the US. FWIW, US GDP increased by 65% and 32% during the periods when healthcare expenditures went up by, respectively, 90% and 54%.

    As for waiting times for screening tests, that’s irrelevant. Schedule next year’s mammogram just after you’ve had this year’s … does that make the “waiting time” for that next one 365 days? Similarly, if there’s any association whatsoever between the number of diagnostic toys in a modernized country and the health of its citizens, it seems to be a negative one. The US has more of all those expensive gadgets than does anyone else, but our populace is decidedly less healthy.

    So, to reiterate, Italy is indeed civilized and sensible.

  24. 25

    mark spews:

    Democrats are in control of everything everywhere I look and all I see is one fucking mess after another proving AGAIN that liberalism just FUCKING DOESN’T WORK.