I sat in the back of the auditorium. I knew the material being presented. I was not there to hear the information, but to show support and solidarity. I listened as our union president unraveled the proposed contract for the next three years.
Reasonable salary increase. Balanced, of course, by a prescription plan increase and a premium contribution increase. (Finally), vision coverage. An interesting incentive to take fewer sick days–although this one is naggingly gendered, as a friend pointed out, since our maternity leave comes out of our sick days. Compensation for covering colleagues’ classes. Mentoring stipend. All in all, a good, solid contract. The work of a dedicated negotiating team in a strong local union, in a very pro-union state.
It has been an exhausting process…beginning weeks ago when I sat and listened to the district administration present their initial proposed package. I listened to my former principal, now our superintendent, explain that 20% of the budget was going to health care, which was “unsustainable.” I listened to him talk about the numbers of retirees and the cost of doing business versus the local tax cap. Fast forward to this week, the negotiating team brought us the proposed agreement and we, in turn, brought it to our members. There were questions, but the answers were satisfying, so eventually the questions stopped.
It is disheartening to recognize that, at the end of the day, it is all about the money. It’s not about the kids. It’s not about the buildings or the materials or even the food in the cafeteria. And it certainly is not about the teachers. Not really. It’s about getting the 20% of the budget lower by asking teachers to pay more. To pay more from a salary that is already stretched thin by mortgages and car payments and living.
Thankfully, the proposed contract is for three years. Just enough time to forget this bottom line and focus on teaching.