In a state where right-to-fire laws defang labor, where teachers have no right to strike, and where school boards have the authority to impose contracts unilaterally, what’s a teacher’s union to do when the school board proposes a bad contract?
In Rapid City, capitulate:
Rapid City Education Association leaders are telling members, based on teachers’ union surveys, the group will accept the Rapid City Area Schools’ controversial contract that will overhaul how district teachers get paid.
An 8:25 a.m. Wednesday email signed by the RCEA contract negotiations team says, “Survey results indicate the desire of the membership is to forego mediation and let the district impose its Last Best Offer without challenge to the Department of Labor” [Mike Anderson, “Rapid City Teachers Accept Contract Offer,” Rapid City Journal, 2016.06.10].
This “acceptance” of the board’s “offer” shows how carrying out the Legislature’s intent to focus new K-12 revenue on beginning teacher salaries without commensurate rewards for long-undercompensated veteran teachers undermines the power of labor in public schools:
Veteran teacher Sabrina Henriksen, who has a master’s degree and more than a decade of experience, said Thursday she was disappointed with the RCEA’s decision to not seek mediation.
“It’s the will of the group, so it has to overrule any personal feelings I have,” she said. “My hope is that some of those younger teachers who are getting a big bump in pay will take that seriously and become part of the (RCEA), because only with a united front can we keep moving forward” [Anderson, 2016.06.10].
Henriksen’s pitch seems overly hopeful. Young Rapid City teachers who haven’t joined the union yet won’t see their new contract as a reason to join. They’ll see that they would have gotten their raises regardless of the position the union took. The union’s only selling point is that the revenue for those raises wouldn’t exist without long, hard lobbying from the teachers’ union at the state level to secure passage of the half-penny sales tax and the new K-12 funding formula focused on teacher pay.