A friend of mine is blowing up my FB wall with posts about the ongoing strike between the Medford School District and the local Teacher’s Union. I know we’ve had union themed threads recently, but this seemed sufficiently different and interesting.
I will try to keep this as unbiased as possible, but I am only human.
In summary: 5 years ago, during the recession, the district and teacher’s negotiated a new contract, where the teachers did not get very much due to the recession. The teachers claim the expectation was that when the recession ended, the next contract would be generous to teachers.
As far as I can tell the current strikes boils down to two issues:
Pay - The school district is offering to increase wages by 10%, but asking the teachers to contribute a larger percentage to their pension fund. The district claims that benefit payments have ballooned, meaning they can’t offer as much of an increase as they might like and they need to get pension costs down. The teachers argue that the new structure would represent a decrease in pay in real terms, and after 5 years of no wages this is unacceptable.
Working Conditions - The Teachers would like a better student-teacher ratio for certain classes. The district wants to make some changes to the teacher’s planning periods (I haven’t been able to find out what those changes are or why they’re unacceptable - the article above says it will break up the planning period but doesn’t mention how or why).
To a great extent, I can see both sides here.
On the pay issue: The district has revenue X and costs Y, and when X < Y then something needs to be cut (I don’t think the district can raise taxes itself). On the other hand, working for years without a raise or even getting your pay cut really sucks.
Better student teacher ratios: Something I would support in theory, but see the point about revenue X and costs Y.
Planning Periods: Without knowing more details, I can’t say one way or the other.
Negotiations have broken down, the teachers are on strike, and the district is using subs to teach half-day classes (we can all guess how well that is going).
This seems fundamentally different from most business disputes with labor. If a business doesn’t have the revenue to pay it’s workers, it needs to increase revenue, shrink the workforce, or close it’s doors. The district doesn’t have any of those options. Of course, the teachers deserve to be treated and paid like professionals.
What’s the solution in a case like this?