The bargaining session last Thursday night (December 9) was a big disappointment for your team. We have worked very hard on finding ways to bring our costs down to a range that the district could agree with. In order to do that we offered to keep the amount of money the district puts into the insurance pool the same. We also offered to have our raises start in January instead of being retroactive. This reduced the cost of our offer by $1 million. We packaged this deal, which means everything in it has to be accepted together.
The district countered with 5% starting in March, 5% next year and 3.5% in the third year. To illustrate how out of touch their team is, they proposed to have our monthly insurance benefit of $1330 start in March and not be retroactive to the beginning of the year. We have had an insurance benefit of $1330 a month since 2019!! We have not proposed to increase it, so it seems clear the district team does not even know what our current benefits are.
Your team was unhappy with this offer to say the least. We responded by taking our package off the table. We kept the reduced amount of money in the insurance pool because, unlike the district, we believe the money the district receives should be spent on staff and students, not saved. We then reverted back to our original offer of 7.5%, 5% , 4%.
We also showed the district how their offer will keep us at the bottom of the metro districts. With the district’s offer, teachers at the highest pay scale would be making $10,000 less a year working for Reynolds than they could make working for Gresham. The lawyer for the district stated that we are calculating steps incorrectly, which is not accurate. She also said that we are engaged in regressive bargaining (taking things off the table that have been offered). This is also not true. We are not. In package bargaining, either side is allowed to offer things which can later be withdrawn if the whole package is not agreed to. (The district has used this tactic before as well.) She also said no one else is offering such large raises. This is true - no other district needs to offer such large raises because they already have higher pay scales than Reynolds. If they did offer large raises, then we would be left even farther behind.
The school board member present repeated how the board really wants to pay the teachers well; they just can’t afford it. He expressed concern that if they agreed to our raises the district may have to lay off a teacher, even a single teacher, in year three and he can’t agree to that. We pointed out that at the rate of teachers leaving, there wouldn’t be any one left to lay off.
Next steps: We have offered a date in January for the next bargaining session, and we want that session to be in person. In the meantime, we are asking all of you to contact the school board with your concerns about the bargain. Please mention how you are doing financially and/or emotionally. Mention if you are thinking about leaving or mention people you know who have left. We will need your action and your support to get through this bargain.
Another important “next step” is to take care of yourselves. Please try to relax and get some enjoyment and peace during the winter break. You are all amazing, and your team appreciates all of your support.
Your REA bargaining team
Your REA co-chairs met with the district this week to analyze the ongoing financial understanding between REA and the district in costing our proposals. We have worked with the CFO to make sure we are using the same information. For example we now know the number of teachers being paid out of the general fund. We know the amount of money not being used in the insurance pool. Just to reassure everyone, when we discuss lowering the amount in the pool this will not cause people to have to pay out of pocket. We have money left over every year and would rather use that money to help with pay than to allow the district to keep it.
Unfortunately, we continue to disagree on the way that steps are being calculated. Additionally, we have been told that the school board is very comfortable with the last offer they gave us. We were informed that they think this will use up the excess money that the district has been saving year after year. We disagree with that thinking and the math they’re using to come to that conclusion. We have seen the district over-budget by millions each year but they still can’t see that.
We are also concerned about the district team’s ability to move on financial offers. They talk to the board about the offers but it seems like they can only do that at designated meetings and not during caucus time. We are concerned that the board is not available enough during bargaining.
The REA team will be working to make strategic moves to our financial offer to move this to a settlement. These strategies could include moving money from the insurance pool (again, no one would be harmed), changing the starting date for when COLA raises are activated, looking at other sources of revenue (where has the district historically over-budgeted) etc.
Please be prepared for additional asks from your bargaining team. We are only as strong as we are in solidarity. We may be asking you to take actions to make the board uncomfortable with their offer. If so, we will need you to join us to get this agreement settled.
Thanks again for your support,
Your bargaining team
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