Longest day of bargaining; agreements on moving boxes — Update 8-20

Instant rally

KEA’s Bargaining Support Team thought it would be nice to have a small group of KEA members welcome our bargaining team Wednesday on the first day of mediation. But what started with a few members calling a handful of contacts in their buildings quickly swelled to a street rally with 200 teachers, specialists, parents and students chanting outside the bargaining site at Mill Creek Middle School. WEA President Mary Lindquist, Vice President Mike Ragan and Executive Director John Okamoto even stopped by to offer their support.

Years of frustration over the district’s unwillingness to listen to its own education experts — Kent’s teachers and specialists — have coalesced into a strong and united voice that the district needs to hear and heed to resolve key issues that are hurting our students. Watch video

First day of mediation

KEA and the district met with a state mediator for 11 hours Wednesday, and are back at the table today. That in itself is a milestone: it is the longest bargaining session since negotiations began. KEA has repeatedly urged the district to come to the table more often and stay longer than the half-day sessions so far. The district not only declined but, as you may recall, refused to excuse KEA Bargaining Team members for full-day negotiations this spring. The district would not release KEA’s Bargaining Team for bargaining even when KEA offered to pay for substitutes out of our own members’ dues money. The district’s willingness to come to the table is one step in the right direction.

The real issue, of course, is whether longer sessions will yield results. On Wednesday, negotiating teams for the district and KEA met in separate rooms with the state mediator shuttling back and forth between them, and members from both teams met occasionally in small groups to discuss the details and impacts of specific bargaining proposals. As is typical, much of the day was spent introducing the mediator to the issues here. There were no breakthroughs on any of the major issues that impact our time with students in the classroom.

Four tentative agreements

The lack of significant progress is most evident from the agreements Wednesday that involved minor, third-tier issues: One tentative agreement concerned the district’s agreeing to provide moving boxes and packing tape for staff who are involuntarily transferred between buildings. Another tentative agreement concerned the district’s agreeing to provide moving boxes and packing tape for staff who are voluntarily transferred between buildings. A third tentative agreement concerned the district’s agreeing to provide moving boxes and packing tape for staff who are reassigned to a different classroom within their building.

The fourth tentative agreement involved more substantive issue, clarifying issues around staff who are returning from maternity leave, but still did not address the key issues of class size and time with students that the district continues to disregard.

No tax dollars were diverted to send this newsletter

The district’s disregard for our core issues is clear in a letter sent to parents over the weekend in which the district suggested school may not start on time because the district offered teachers a significant raise, but teachers rejected the district’s “entire compensation offer” and want “additional increases in compensation.” See letter

The letter set off an immediate firestorm of criticism in online postings and letters-to-the-editor: Writers noted it’s completely unprofessional for the district to launch a PR battle to attempt to paint its own teachers as greedy, and dishonest to claim that the only stated reason school won’t start is a strike over teacher pay. The district’s pay offer was a take-it-or-leave it package tied to numerous other contract takeaways that the district did not mention. Writers also noted that, despite the district’s repeated claims it doesn’t have money to spend in the classroom, its PR machine has found tens of thousands of dollars in tax money for consultants, printing, postage and overtime (to bring in extra employees on the weekend to stuff envelopes). That’s in sharp contrast to KEA members, who are volunteering to hold community meetings, volunteering to leaflet their school communities, to organize rallies and to write letters-to-the-editor. Direct expenses for KEA, such as staff and sign printing, are paid from members’ own dues, and are not taken from taxpayer revenues intended for the classroom.

Speaking of volunteers, kudos to our teachers and staff who are organizing a growing number of community forums where KEA members can explain that our bargaining is NOT primarily focused on teacher pay. Kudos also to KEA member Barbara Franks, who created a short video with teachers describing how class size impacts learning. The video also discusses ways the district can begin to address our overcrowded classes — even without spending the $21 million it wants to leave in the bank. Watch video

Showing support

Please let parents and community members know about our Web site, http://www.KentSchools.org, so they can learn more about our issues.

KEA members and the community can print out signs for car windows showing their support for Kent teachers. Click for Flyer 1 or Flyer 2

Upcoming dates:

  • Bargaining/mediation sessions have been set for today, Friday and Saturday.
  • Sunday Aug. 23: 4 p.m. picnic for KEA members and their families at East Hill Park on 248th. Parking has been arranged at the Park-and-Ride lot at Kent United Methodist Church, 11010 SE 248th St. The picnic will include an update from our Bargaining Team, plus key community leaders who are showing their support for KEA members.
  • Wednesday Aug. 26. 5 p.m., Kentlake High School. General Membership meeting to vote on a tentative contract agreement or vote to strike.
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3 Responses to “Longest day of bargaining; agreements on moving boxes — Update 8-20”

  1. Stay the Course Teachers! Says:

    Kudos to our members who have shared their thoughts on these videos. It seems more members are stepping forward and telling their stories on here, at our rallies, and with one another in classes and meetings.

    We must stay the course and not worry about the nay sayers. I find it interesting that non-educators are comparing their jobs, businesses, to teaching and telling teachers how lucky they have it. That’s way out there, isn’t it? Boy, wouldn’t I love to tell my doctor that he should be paid the same amount that my husband who works a forklift should be paid? All that schooling and experience that a doctor goes through, plus the nuances of his job are no where near the same as someone who works in a totally different field.

  2. CounterpointSue Says:

    Here’s my pick for the official strike theme song: Bon Jovi’s, “We Weren’t Made To Follow.” You can listen to the song on their website if you’d like, but check out these lyrics:

    This one goes out to the man who mines for miracles
    This one goes out to the ones in need
    This one goes out to the sinner and the cynical
    This ain’t about no apology

    This road was paved by the hopeless and the hungry
    This road was paved by the winds of change
    Walking beside the guilty and the innocent
    How will you raise your hand
    when they call your name?
    Yeah, yeah, yeah

    We weren’t born to follow
    Come on and get up off your knees
    When life is a bitter pill to swallow
    You gotta hold on to what you believe

    Believe that the sun will shine tomorrow
    And that your saints and sinners bleed
    We weren’t born to follow
    You gotta stand up for what you believe
    Let me hear you say
    yeah, yeah, yeah, oooh yeah

    This one’s about anyone who does it differently
    This one’s about the one who cusses and spits
    This ain’t about our living in a fantasy
    This ain’t about giving up or giving in
    Yeah, yeah, yeah

    We weren’t born to follow
    Come on and get up off your knees
    When life is a bitter pill to swallow
    You gotta hold on to what you believe

    Believe that the sun will shine tomorrow
    And that your saints and sinners bleed
    We weren’t born to follow
    You gotta stand up for what you believe
    Let me hear you say :
    Yeah, yeah, yeah, oh yeah
    Let me hear you say :
    yeah, yeah, yeah, oh yeah

    Guitar!!

    We weren’t born to follow
    Come on and get up off your knees
    When life is a bitter pill to swallow
    You gotta hold on to what you believe

    Believe that the sun will shine tomorrow
    And that your saints and sinners bleed
    We weren’t born to follow
    You gotta stand up for what you believe
    Let me hear you say :
    Yeah, yeah, yeah, oh yeah
    Let me hear you say :
    yeah, yeah, yeah, oh oooh

    We weren’t born to follow oh yeah
    We weren’t born to follow oh yeah

  3. Love Me Some Boxes and Tape Says:

    It is unbelieveable that it took 11 hours to determine that boxes and tape will be provided to teachers who will move. The fact that this is not already in teacher contracts is very telling of just how inefficient KSD is and just how little they really respect teachers. It is another example of how the KSD expect does not think through the decisions it makes and how they affect teachers. Their thought process is just what they want to do without thinking of the repurcussions of time and money it costs teachers to make the moves they want.

    Boxes and tape? They won’t even provide moving labor for the aforementioned boxes (and tape) to be moved? Oh, I guess the teacher is responsible for that. Another example of how disconnected KSD from teachers daily experiences.

    Common sense would say that if KSD wants the KEA to bring a strong contract to teachers voting on August 26th, the KSD should really start admitting that they should bargain in good faith (and not just CLAIM to do so) so that students and teachers can start on time.

    As my handle says, I love me some boxes and tape, but seriously, start negotiating on the real issues to teachers: time, workload and compensation…

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