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Teachers In Mabton Are Marching For A 17 Percent Raise

The teachers in Mabton are marching and pressuring the local school board to divert levy money to salary increases that are over and above the state-provided cost-of-living adjustment.

All across the state, the teachers’ union has been urging its locals to push for 5 percent pay raises funded by diverting money from other services.

In most cases, they’ve been getting them.

Fortunately, the Mabton School District has implemented an important transparency practice related to its bargaining process: It posts all proposals which have been received by both parties on its website. While not quite open meetings for bargaining, this is a giant leap forward in transparency.

See the union and districts proposals for the union contract here.

What we learn is that the Mabton Education Association seeks a 17 percent increase funded from the finite levy and state funds for materials and maintenance.

From these union documents, the community can learn that the local union also seeks:

  • mandatory meetings with new employees (during which union operatives can pressure new teachers to sign irrevocable membership cards after the Supreme Court strikes down automatic forced union fees in the pending Janus v. AFSCME case);
  • increases in district-funded salary for union business (two and a half weeks);
  • incentives of $1,000 for those who retire and incentives of $1,000 for those who don’t;
  • a policy of disregarding parent complaints against teachers if they’re not shown to the employee within five days;
  • the obligation to disregard all negative information in a personnel file more than two years old
  • a 15 percent reduction in class sizes;
  • an increasing in the pay bonus for larger class sizes from $1,170 to $2,700 for each student over 25 plus a 4 percent pay increase
  • double overtime pay for covering a colleague’s class or attending district training during a teacher’s prep time;
  • at least $500 for supplies, plus $200 in pay to cover out-of-pocket expenses for classroom supplies;
  • a prohibition on being asked to watch students outside of the teachers’ classroom;
  • an full day’s pay for each day of personal leave not used;
  • leave with pay for jury duty;
  • $62,000 of district funds to be added to employees’ insurance pool (over $1,000 per teacher);
  • pay, including travel time and meals, for attending district-approved conferences, meetings or trainings.
  • changing supplemental pay for non-student work from a flat rate of $32 per hour to actual per diem rate (higher for more senior teachers; lower for younger);
  • a process for grievances that’s more rigorous for the district to pursue;
  • specifying that the insurance will come from WEA’s partner rather than Blue Cross; and,
  • increasing the wage by giving 31 day’s extra pay (17.2 percent) in addition to the 2.3 percent state-provided teacher raise.

When I saw the newspaper and television coverage, I sent an open letter to the Mabton school board:

Hello Leadership Team at Mabton,

I read with interest the news account of the union working to agitate for levy-funded salary increases in addition to the state increases. 

It is alarming to any who care about education services to see payroll demands crowding out other important services like supplemental learning, class sizes, community outreach, English learning services, vocational opportunities, building maintenance and a host of other critical services for quality schools.

My recommendation is threefold:

First, get a consensus of the board on where the line is, and what tradeoffs you are unwilling to make.

Outline in advance how going too far on payroll is going impact other services. You represent those who get services from schools and those who are asked to pay taxes for schools. Good governance requires that you balance the interests of your team with these other interests. 

Perhaps pay can be increased, but the school day or year lengthened. Perhaps all partial days could be traded for a number of teacher-only professional days on site for training. Perhaps some accountability could be a condition of the increases offered. Seek some gains for those who get services, and take steps to avoid cannibalizing services for payroll.

Second, DO talk to the media and to the community.

All who have been through the cycle of union agitation have subsequently reported that they wish they had been able to be more transparent prior about what was offered, what tradeoffs were required and how earnestly the district was wanting to treat employees right.

The union is marketing. It’s taking the message to the public in the newspaper. If it’s not circumventing the bargaining table by bringing employees to address the board meetings, then it is not an unfair labor practice for the school board members to also speak freely about their objectives and positive intentions with the public’s money.

Someone from the board should be appointed spokesperson and meet with the reporter. I would also recommend seeing if the union (which is now making this a public issue) is willing to allow the reporters to observe some key bargaining sessions. This is legal, and could help balance the story told.

Third, do what you can to make sure educators know what is really in contention.

You ought not market directly to them, but do not assume that the voices in the bargaining session match those of your team. Likewise, don’t assume that your well-intentioned offers are being correctly translated. Again, allowing educators to observe might help assure that elements of the discussion are correctly communicated.

Some districts have put the various proposals which have been received by both parties on their website for all to see. Changes and concessions are recorded as they go along. Tacoma did this during its strike. [Note: I see the district is/was already doing this and setting a great example for other districts].

I don’t envy you the friction, but I do believe that if you do the right thing the community will applaud the balance you thoughtfully implement.

I would welcome a phone call from anyone who wishes to discuss this further.

Jami Lund
Senior Policy Analyst | Freedom Foundation
Author: Grading the Teacher Union Contract

JLund@FreedomFoundation.com
360.956.3482 | PO Box 552 Olympia, WA 98507
FreedomFoundation.com
Centralia School Director

News:

Mabton Teachers March, Demand New Contract,” ABC News, Sept. 26, 2017

Still no pact for teachers,” Daily Sun, Oct. 3. 2017