Negotiations 2001

Dec 1, 2000 My Reply
Although it seems like we just finished negotiating our last contract, it is time to get ready to start again. Our contract provides that we will present the school district with our proposals for the next round of negotiations in March of 2001. If we convene the Negotiations Advisory Committee in mid-December, we can conduct a membership survey in January and have building level meetings in February. This would allow us time to fine tune the proposal for submission in March.

Education Minnesota has completed a statewide membership survey and the Governing Board has approved the recommendations for bargaining. A collective bargaining conference will be held in late January to train negotiators and executive board members and provide both research and advice relating to negotiating contracts.

Two state level efforts are worthy of note. First, the effort continues to establish a statewide insurance program for educators. Two member surveys and a study have been completed and a number of meetings have been held. A state health insurance program could help to hold down premium increases and could deal with many of the difficulties we have been encountering such as network of coverage We must be careful that districts such as Duluth which have coverage beyond the average do not lose anything. The other problem is that we must deal with the Legislature to establish the program, something which is easier said than done. A second item is the work of the Task Force on Regional Bargaining This group studied the increasing differences in salaries between metro and out-state school districts. We are now finding a difference of about $20,000 in maximum salaries between metro and smaller out-state school districts. Duluth falls between the two, but is closer to the out-state average than the metro average.

So this year as we go into bargaining we will have to be aware of and deal with a number of issues. Insurance will remain a problem, pending any development of a state plan. It will be very difficult to catch up with the metro area salaries. The metro school districts have greater resources and increasing rather than declining enrollments. Because of Duluth's size relative to surrounding school districts, regional bargaining--if it should come to pass--will not be of much help to us. On the other hand there are few school districts with a fund balance as large as Duluth's (we have been told that it is over $20 million). We may also have to deal with any number of "accountability" programs and proposals such as that suggested by the Governor.

With any luck; our Severance Committee will have completed its work and we should not have members in danger of the IRS going after them for constructive receipt. We should also have dealt with issues of age discrimination. This committee has met dozens of times both during the school year and Summer. It would appear that they will complete their work prior to the beginning of negotiations.

This should be both an interesting and exciting round of negotiations. Actually they all are. What do I expect that the issues will be? Salaries--we must have salaries that will allow .Duluth to attract and maintain the type of teacher which our community has come to expect. Insurance--we have a number of issues, many of which are carried over from last year. Class size--the public and membership will expect us to address this. Student discipline and school safety--could be a big item this time. Accountability--this is an area in which we may want to be proactive. There are issues as well involving groups such as ECFE, specialists, special education, and co-curricular. I am also sure that the Negotiations Committee and membership will be able to add to this list.

The Negotiations Advisory Committee is open to all members. It is very important that we have representation from all areas of the membership. This group will determine how to best collect information from the membership, receive recommendations from the various committees, and construct our proposal. If you would like to be a part of this process, please contact the DFT office at 7221735. Lack of experience is often a plus. The only requirement is your willingness to serve. 

Frank Wanner
This is a quite reasonable notice to our teachers of the impending negotiations. I am pleased that it does not set expectations unreasonably high, for instance by pointing out that we are not in the same league financially as "metro" school districts. (which I have highlighted) I'm also pleased with the description (which I've  also highlighted) that our district offers teachers a better health insurance plan than many other districts.  This is especially helpful because some of our teachers have been traumatized because we dropped the Blue Cross plan they knew for years for a policy offered by Medica after the last negotiation. The Medica plan is now being called "Denialcare." An extension of this policy by half a year was the subject of last month's DFT Newsletter.