To: Steve Turiano, Elected WTA Officers, Executive Board and Representative Council Members
I would appreciate this message being shared with all WTA members.
I have already made one request for a WTA General Membership meeting, and would once again like to respectfully request that a such a meeting be called for the purpose of discussing the District’s request for ideas to problem-solve the current state of the financial dilemma we face as a District, as well as to clarify some erroneous gossip that is circulating. All members deserve the right to hear and to react to suggestions and ideas that have been brought forth in light of recent developments and to have the opportunity to express their ideas and opinions, as well as to ask clarifying questions. This should be done as a whole membership and not with splintered individual meetings. Constitutionally, I understand that this needs to be brought to Executive Board for a vote and that no meeting is scheduled until the first full week in March, but as many of you know, emergency Executive Board and Rep Council meetings can be called, and have been in the past, as well as sending out a motion via e-mail and calling for a vote, which has also been done.
I have many concerns regarding some of the statements that have been made to our membership. While it is true that if no Collective Bargaining Agreement is approved by June 30, 2012, we will not receive a raise for the 2012-2013 school year, there is no guarantee that retroactive pay will be agreed to in the subsequent contract. Given the current state of financial insecurity nationwide, it is difficult to fathom that if we go without a contract for a number of years, that retroactive pay will be easily agreed to. I have made numerous suggestions that our WTA leadership collaborate with the District to reach an amicable solution as to how WTA members can help with the budget crisis with the possibility of negotiating a contract extension. This would most likely secure a salary increase as well as keep our health benefits from changing. Another suggestion would be to ask for the Superintendent’s days back that have been added to our current contract.
On page 70 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Superintendent/District and WTA it states: “Upon request of either party for a meeting to open negotiations, a mutually acceptable meeting date and place shall be set no more than fifteen (15) days following such request. In any given school year, such request shall be made in writing on or before December 1.” The key language here is either party and December 1. Although the District did not officially request WTA to open negotiations to discuss a wage adjustment, discussions could have ensued to problem-solve the situation. When our WTA leadership asked for a change to the language regarding the retirement incentive after the December 1 deadline, both parties agreed to allowing the incentive to be granted to everyone who retires regardless of their eligibility. This motion was made at Executive Board, moved to Rep Council and the Memorandum of Understanding was passed. This is a perfect example of working for the good of our members by both parties.
I was teaching in Webster twenty years ago when the District asked for, and received, a nearly 3% give-back of our 8% salary increase that year in order to save school-nurse teachers. Yes, school-nurse teachers were let go the following year, but WTA is much smarter today than it was then. I believe that often times we need to look beyond ourselves and focus on colleagues who need our support. The adversarial relationship that once existed between the District and WTA has evolved into collaborative and collegial one, giving birth to a new way of progressing, working together and resolving issues in a positive way. Times are difficult and I believe that working as a collective team will put us in a better place, especially when we begin negotiations, and it will positively affect our standing with the District and with the community.
Every single person of the Webster staff should be very should be proud of the children we have helped “raise” as a community and for the progress that has been made in relationships across the District. It is critical that the Webster community begin to view us as supporters rather than as antagonists.
This is not a Webster issue. This crisis is a State and National problem that will continue to erode the very core and heart of what education, and we, as educators, stand for. This is not about any one person’s salary or benefits, it is about preserving the dignity and honor of an Association that has undergone the worst of times and that has risen above the differences and roadblocks encountered along the journey. It is not only what is best for us as union members, but what is truly best for our students and our colleagues.
I firmly believe that as dues-paying members and union supporters thatwe MUST be afforded the opportunity to meet as a collective group of WTA members in order to together hear the comments and opinions of our colleagues, and then we should vote on the issue. I will fully support what the majority decides, but it is imperative that we first be informed and asked for a vote, and then, and only then, be represented by a WTA voice that will truly represent the desire of the majority of its members.