Left In Lowell

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October 15, 2011

Muddying the Waters Unethically

by at 7:59 am.

The Sun has an article about the school committee-teacher contract negotiations. I have a few things to say about it.

First, the reported rejection of the school committee’s offer. Look, I am sympathetic of the fact that the teachers have gone without a cost of living raise (just step increases) for the more than two years there has been no contract. It’s not fair, and it’s frustrating I am sure. Teachers work hard, and should be compensated like professionals. Their job is so important to a strong community.

However, I think asking for too much right now forces the school committee to choose between raises, and JOBS. Chapter 70 money is merely level-funded right now, if even that, and the city can hardly afford to greatly increase their part of the school budget, given the amount of local aid from the state. Medical insurance and other expenses are going up, up, up. This eats into the budget every year. We’re in a serious downtown for heaven’s sake! People are getting laid off right, left, and center in both the private AND the public sector. Why doesn’t this reality sink in? Accept a modest forward-going raise that kicks in over time so the school committee can feel confident they can fund it, or watch colleagues get laid off!!

I am a public and private union sympathizer, but Paul Georges sometimes make it VERY hard for me to sympathize with the teacher’s union and their demands. This isn’t the first time that’s happened. I know his job is to be a hard ass, but enough is enough.

However, that is not the only outrage in that article, and now we come to the real reason for this post. From the article (important part in bold):

As contract negotiations continue behind closed doors between the School Committee and United Teachers of Lowell, one School Committee member tells The Sun that union leaders refused a 3 percent raise offered by the committee this week.

“They are sharks,” said the committee member, who agreed to speak anonymously because negotiations are protected by executive-session privilege. “We have really extended ourselves with the best offer we could make, but it is not enough for them.”

Who the goddamned hell broke executive session rules to comment on the rejection in the first place??

I would like to see that person LOSE the upcoming election. What. An. IDIOT. We NEED to know who that person is.

Of course, the Sun went to Paul Georges for a reaction to the anonymous comment, which included a very incendiary “they are sharks.”

If you thought the negotiations have been grueling, unproductive, and contentious up til now, just wait. Thanks to this stupid farking anonymous School Committee member, the teachers now have an excuse to be even more pissed off. And rightly so. The rules of negotiation were violated by one party. This is not negotiating in good faith. Haven’t we had enough public personnel fights fought in the pages of the Lowell Sun (the former Superintendent) to be smart enough to refrain from this sort of ethical lapse?

My god. If we do not find out what elected moron commented and leaked executive session negotiations, then we need to concentrate on ousting all the incumbents we can and replacing them with all the challengers running. Even though I am a supporter of some of the incumbents.

If I were the rest of the School Committee, I would publicly come out and state they were not the leak, so by process of elimination, we can figure out who was. Sure, there’s a chance someone might lie about it, but if we continue to have elected officials undermining delicate negotiations, I am ready with the pitchfork of my vote to retire them posthaste. And you should be too.

16 Responses to “Muddying the Waters Unethically”

  1. Lynne Says:

    And just to be clear (I forgot to say this in the post), I understand also that there are likely things in the rejected offer causing contention that might not have to do with the 3% and how it will be doled out (up front vs over the course of this school year). BeCAUSE it is executive session, we’re not supposed to know until it’s settled, because employee matters like this cannot be safely negotiated under a microscope if you want all parties to work in good faith. Until some douchebag decides to break his promise AND the law and talk to an effing Sun reporter about executive session.

    And it’s already started. Teacher Amy Bisson also picked up on the article I linked to above and is rightly pissed off. The entire teacher core has a very good reason to not trust the School Committee now. I am guessing the rest of the School Committee is appalled, but without knowing who is the leak, I can’t support the whole body now.

  2. Mill Girl Says:

    Totally agree that this is unacceptable behavior. I think we can narrow it down by focusing on the members of the School Committee to are on speaking terms with the Sun. That is a much shorter list.

  3. Joe S Says:

    I believe Chapter 70 money from the State was increased by 7% this year. However, that doesn’t mean that the school budget increased by that amount, as the City’s contribution does not include the “extra” $1M that was provided last year, as well as other possible factors.

    But to the main point, I agree that release of information that was mutually agreed-to as private is a violation of honor. Maybe it should have been a public meeting, but it wasn’t.

    And to the point that negotiations must go beyond salaries, we must remember there are ongoing negotiations for health care changes, and there should be negotiations for reduction in sick-day buy-back benefits, as well as other issues.

  4. Lola Says:

    Lynne~
    Remember this is the Sun. It is reporting half truths and leaving out essential information. Don’t judge on this story. It is meant to make the teachers look bad. This happens cyclically during contract negotiations.

  5. Moira Says:

    I come from a family of school teachers so I understand the teachers’ side of things. Tough, tough job to deal with kids from all economic and sociological situations, not to mention parents who often make educating little Johnnie that much worse. Still, I think what’s hard for the average American to take now is that teachers get HUGE benefits including crazy amounts of time off that average Americans simply cannot fathom. Cost of living raises PLUS step raises? What’s that? I went 4 years with NO raises. Worked huge overtime without pay, then was laid off when the company had to reduce the workforce. I don’t have tenure where I work now, nor have I ever had any kind of job security. My raise this year might be 2% if I’m lucky. Let me punctuate this by saying that I vote in Town meeting FOR every school budget increase possible. You want to know who’s REALLY get F’d? Librarians. But that’s another discussion for another time.

  6. Magnolia Says:

    s a former long-term city employee, I can recall at least 3 different sets of contract negotiations when we were told there is no money, so we got nothing only to turn around and watch the teacher get 3% and more. There are some wonderful teachers in Lowell, but money is tight and maybe it should be their turn to go without. We do not need to lose any more school personnel.

  7. Lynne Says:

    Yeah but Lola, it’s a Jen Myers article…so quite a bit more credible. I agree though that there is a story here that we’re not getting. (Working on that.)

  8. Prince Charming Says:

    We’ll all understand when we see the endorsements.

  9. SpindleSister Says:

    Teachers at the City aren’t the only ones that aren’t receiving cost of living increases, though it seems as though they are the only ones complaining. While I’m grateful for the education my children receive, I really do wish Paul Georges would quick his constant yapping and whining. I’m sure that when the Godfather gets remade, he will be a shoe in for one of the major mafia figures.

  10. Eleanor Rigby Says:

    Moira brought up one point that I was going touch on. The teachers have had no raises…except step increases…hello? Isn’t that a raise? It is in my world.

    The other point has been brought up as well. An executive session is closed for a reason. It comes down to the old saying about watching the making of sausages and laws…bargaining sessions can be rough and things are said that are posturing and not meant for anything beyond that.

    The Sun has it in for the Teachers Union,(or any union for that matter) everyone knows that, but my suspicion of who leaked the executive session immediately went to the person the Sun said was NOT the source! Why would they eliminate Leary from the speculation game and narrow the focus down to 4 other members if one of them was their source?

    And Jen Myers was the author, is she the school committee reporter these days?

  11. evelyn Says:

    I think Gerry Nutter did a good job of narrowing down the list of who the leak is, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the leak came from another source altogether… this is the Lowell sun we are talking about and a little union bashing helps to sell newspapers.

    Has either side actually confirmed that there was a 3% offer or that it was rejected?

  12. Jen Myers Says:

    Yes, “Eleanor” I am the School Committee reporter — have been since 2007.

  13. Right in Lowell Says:

    Every union negotiation should be a public meeting. The school committee would agree but guess who doesn’t? Georges of course. It’s in his best interest to keep the fire burning.

  14. Prince Charming Says:

    Well now. Think Doherty’s an idiot? Holy Shit, she was my LAST choice. Not a good move Jackie.

  15. Fran McDougall Says:

    Very disappointed in this “leak”.

  16. evelyn Says:

    I guess I have to agree that these meetings should not be secret. I know what everyone says about watching sausage being made, but let’s be honest - sausage isn’t exactly healthy, and if more people watched it being made, fewer people would eat it. Maybe these negotiations need to be watched and maybe they would be a little healthier?

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