A funny thing happened in I-2 today at lunch. We all found out that we will work to rule beginning second semester.
In the ongoing battle between union and management, there are many stages on the way to reaching an agreement on working conditions. The East Side Teacher’s Association is ready to work to rule because negotiations with East Side Union High School District have been so slow and hostile. With the additional money that’s been rumored to have flooded into ESUHSD, with Schwarzenegger’s plan to raise education funding by $3 billion in 2006 and $6 billion in 2010 (though these will take place through bond measures, so I really doubt everything will go through), there’s very little reason to believe that an agreement cannot be reached by ESTA and ESUHSD. Surely, we won’t have to go any further than work to rule in order to get a contract, something we’ve been without this entire school year.
A tactic taken by the union to push the district to the barganing table, the concept of work to rule troubles me. It means, essentially, that employees will work to the contract, no more and no less. There will be no extra-hours tutoring, no planning or grading after hours. We show up 15 minutes before and leave 15 minutes after work, just as our contract states. We are not available during break or lunch, so we really do not hold office hours for any students seeking additional help on course content. The idea is that we only work during our contractual day, making it painfully clear to the district just how valuable teachers are, how we should be better taken care of for all that we do and are not paid for.
The problem I have with this is that I have to tell students, “No, I cannot help you.” For a bit of time, I have to compromise my morals and that’s no good.
Union folk say that it hurts the students in the short term, but benefits them in the long term in that the work to rule era will force the district to take the negotiations more seriously and will hopefully create a contract that will attract and retain better teachers. The thought is that students being adversely affected will cause more parents to complain and that’s what it will take to make the board of directors ready to talk. But there has to be a way to deal with union and contractual issues that does not hurt the students.
Does work to rule use the students to get to the parents to get to the board to get our contract? I’m not imagining things, am I?
If we want the parents to get in on the fight and we acknowledge the fact that their voices are the loudest in terms of final decisions at the district office, we need a concentrated effort on educating the parents about the indesputable facts and giving them a plan of action if things don’t please them. Handing out flyers as parents drop off kids is a good idea, but that was only briefly mentioned at today’s union meeting. Canvasing the neighborhood is likewise a possible solution, one that the union used heavily and in an organized fashion during the election. Where is the push for organizing such efforts now? There’s no plan for how we can work with parents directly to get them involved. Instead, we see fit to get to them through the students and that’s petty, passive agressive behavior.
Most odd and unsettling is the fact that the year we begin having discussions about how to address the F rate is the year we are talking about a process that would prohibit any extra effort of teachers, work to rule. Much of what we need to do to help failing kids involves tutoring after school or working extra hours to plan alternate assessments and such.
Why the union is taking this action is understandable. The fact that the district has been belligerent in coming to us with a real offer is disgusting. But we can’t use the students as chips to bet with. There must be a better way to do this, but I’m not so sure anyone’s looking for it. That’s possibly what disturbs me the most. The union can’t see another way to force the district’s hand on negotiations and the district saw this coming the whole time and did little or nothing to stop it.
Yet more evidence that the system is broken.