Negotiations are so freaking frustrating. We say all the right things, set up the room in just the right way, make sure everyone is seated around the table just so, and STILL we cannot get to an answer. I'm dedicated to being there, I'm ready to devote my time, sanity, and even writing skills to the endeavor, but still no resolution. (Writing skills: Feel like crafting a quasi-legal definistion of the word "indisposed"? Which is a better phrase, "Professional Duty" or "Adjunct Duty"?)
Touch of background--Boards do not negotiate with unions. Usually the Board designates a representative, either a professional negotiator or a labor attorney to go represent their interests. Anytime something happens in negotiations, the representative comes to the Board in Closed Session for a discussion, and the Board gives direction. Lots of back and forthing on an hourly rate leads to very expensive negotiations.
Once, a few years ago, I was sent in by the Board to monitor negotiations (not take part, just sit in the room and watch) because there was a possibility our rep wasn't reporting the actions properly. (Bad personal history between her and another negotiator. Our reports were filled with personal digs at her partner across the table.) This year I've been asked, based on that experience, to be part of the negotiating tean with another Board member. This is highly unusual. It reflects an effort to be more direct with the union, build some trust, and to cut down on negotiation costs.
Wednesday the Board met for two hours in Closed Session to develop a negotiating proposal. It includes a pretty chunky raise (the teachers haven't had one in five years and morale is in the toilet).
Met all day Friday in negotiations. Everything seemed to be going well before lunch. The raise is part of a package which includes a language change to the workday (really, I won't bore you with details). Almost all the union team members were *happy* with the language change and talked about how much more respectful it was, etc. Great! So, let's all break for lunch. We'll draft up our version of the proposed change, you draft yours, and we'll meet after lunch to compromise.
After lunch, union comes back stone-faced. Nope. Don't want the change. The language they bring is *more* restrictive than the current contract.
Do you understand that this is part of the package from the Board? Yes.
The package which includes a raise? Yes.
I actually had to leave at this point to help my husband set up an event at his business. So I'll find out later on today how it all ended---my assumption from a quick phone call in the afternoon is that the package was rejected.
But this is what just makes me crazy:
I feel as if I, personally, have dedicated a ton of time to this project. It's physically tiring to attend all-day negotiations and then verbally report on those sesions in later Board meetings. It's like an improv act--you have to be very aware of every word coming out, how everyone will perceive your verb choice. I've had four all-day sessions with teachers and, I think, three with the Classified employees. (Outside of Union Negotiations, I've also spent the last *two years* negotiating a Joint Use Agreement with our City representatives.) When there's language to be drafted, I tend to be the one drafting it. (Mostly because the other two professionals have a tendency to write sentences with many clauses but no verb.) The teachers have said over and over again, "Please listen to us. We need some respect. We need a raise." So we did that. THEY LOVED THE PROPOSAL IN THE MORNING!! But by the afternoon, they were back to, "It sounds like a good idea, but we don't trust you, so we can't do it this year. Let's talk about it in next year's negotiation."
Why next year? What's the difference between 06 and 07? Are you going to trust us more next year? I came on the Board in 03 as a "teacher-friendly" candidate, joining the one Board member who kept being voted down 4-1 on practically every vote. This Fall he got re-elected, and we added two more "teacher-friendly" candidates. Now the votes have a tendency towards 5-0 and 4-1 in the other direction.
You won! You beat the system! You've got the Board you wanted! They're finally offering you a raise! They're offering you a chance to get out from under a time-card system and go to an honor system of work product accounting! Yay!!
Nope. Come back next year.
I need to get off the negotiation team before I go postal on someone.