Teachers once again pack school board meeting

Persistence appears to be paying off for Mukilteo teachers
By Brandon Gustafson | Jun 06, 2018
Photo by: Brandon Gustafson Roughly 100 teachers once again packed the Mukilteo School Board meeting on May 29. Teachers have been upset over the Mukilteo School District’s refusal to bargain for new salaries. Talks appear to be going in the right direction as MEA members and MSD representatives met last Friday and will be further discussing salaries this Friday.

For the second time in three weeks, teachers in the Mukilteo School District packed the Mukilteo School Board meeting to voice their displeasure with the district’s refusal to bargain for salary increases.

The teachers believe they should receive raises due to the 2012 Washington State Supreme Court Decision, commonly referred to as the McCleary ruling, that gives millions more to school districts across the state in order to help fully fund basic education, including guaranteeing teacher salaries and giving teachers raises.

The district has declined to reopen the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) because they’re only in the second year of the three-year contract. The Mukilteo Education Association (MEA) filed a grievance with the district in early May, citing the reopener language in their current contract.

At the last school board meeting on Monday, May 14, hundreds of teachers in the district were in the parking lot outside the school district’s office, and roughly 150 stayed for the meeting. So many teachers attended that all seats were taken, and many had to stand in the hallway.

At the school board meeting last Tuesday, May 29, the trend continued as roughly 100 teachers attended, and it appears their persistence is paying off. A meeting between MEA members and school district representatives took place last Friday, June 1, where salary increases were discussed.

At the May 14 meeting, MEA President Dana Wiebe cited reopener language in the teachers’ current three-year contract with the Mukilteo School District that states teachers can ask to reopen contract talks due to legislative change, including the right to bargain for new salaries.

During Tuesday’s meeting, some teachers, parents, and students voiced their displeasure over the district’s refusal to bargain, including Wiebe.

“When negotiating our current contract, your bargainers and the district knew that because of the McCleary lawsuit, changes to the law would happen during the term of the contract. Because both the district and MEA collectively agreed our contract must conform to law, and comply with state funding changes, our contract has many ‘reopener’ provisions that allow us to renegotiate parts of the contract before its expiration,” Wiebe said to the school board.

“In addition to salary, we also negotiated an additional reopener around insurance benefits because of changes in the WEA (Washington Education Association) plans and changes we anticipated from the legislature.

“We exercised this provision earlier this year as a result of the excess pooling dollars, and the district accepted this demand to bargain. As a reminder, ‘demand to bargain’ is the legal term for how we formally request to bargain with the district. Thus, the district’s assertion of a closed contract is a red herring. Yes, our contract is closed, but that does not mean parts cannot be renegotiated and reopened in interim years.”

Wiebe wanted to make it clear that the MEA doesn’t want to re-open their entire contract, but only the salary portion of the contract.

The meeting last Friday between MEA members and the district shows the teachers’ persistence is paying off, Wiebe said.

“As a direct result of the activism, engagement, and unity of MEA members, we had a successful session with the district team on Friday,” she said.

Wiebe said in addition to signing Memorandums of Agreement for health care and the specialist grading, the district voiced a desire to increase teacher salaries.

“As part of the session, the district has entered into good faith negotiations around McCleary funding and also expressed sincere interest in reaching an agreement that increases compensation for teachers,” Wiebe said. “Our next negotiation session is scheduled for this Friday, June 8. We look forward to making more progress then.”

Although the discussions are still in the preliminary stages, Wiebe feels good about getting things set in stone in the near future.

“After last Friday’s meeting, we felt confident that the districts willingness to enter into good faith negotiations means that we can move forward collaboratively to reach a legally binding decision,” she said. “Our hope is that this Friday’s meeting provides MEA and MSD some positive momentum that will ultimately help conform our contract to the law and put the McCleary salary funding towards compensation as it was intended.”

Mukilteo School District spokesman Andy Muntz, who has said the district is dedicated to giving Mukilteo teachers salaries that are among the highest in the state, gave a brief statement on discussions between the district and the MEA.

“We are happy to be discussing this issue with the MEA,” Muntz said.

 

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