November 2, 2008

Breaking News: East Providence Teachers Vote to Work-to-Rule

Monique Chartier

Further to a prior conversation thread, Anchor Rising does not specialize in scoops. But if someone - in this case, Will Ricci of the Ocean State Republican, with access to a telephone but not a computer - kindly offers one, this contributor at least will not refuse it.

East Providence teachers met this afternoon to determine a course of action in the absence of a contract. Will advises the upshot: teachers did not vote to authorize a strike but did vote to work-to-rule.


In Friday's ProJo, Alisha Pina had more details about what led to the breaking off of negotiations Wednesday between the East Providence School Committee and the East Providence Education Association.

[School Committee member Anthony] Carcieri said the district needs $3 million in annual concessions from the teachers and suggested over the last two weeks of meetings that the union could get to that amount with minimum or no salary increases, health insurance cost contributions, and the elimination of a current contract provision that allows teachers to receive up to $5,100 if they choose not to take coverage under the school’s health-insurance plan.

The union’s counteroffer was about $1 million in annual concessions, Carcieri said. [Negotiator for the teachers' union Jeanette] Woolley said Carcieri’s “math is wrong” and she didn’t want the specifics of their offer made public before the teachers are told.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

Let's see, do professionals "work to rule?"


Never heard of doctors doing it. Or nurses. Or lawyers. Or architects.

Gee, I guess that professionals don't "work to rule." Perhaps that's one reason why they're called professionals in the first place - their commitment to a applying a certain level of skill and dedication of their job because it is their duty, express and implied.

So what does that make the teachers in EP?

One can look upon them for the union label, just don't look for professionalism. They're mutually exclusive when you're talking about NEA / AFT.

Posted by: Tom W at November 2, 2008 4:29 PM

Just got back. Very busy day. Thanks, Monique.

...But they're doing this "for the children," right? Yeah, right. More like "to the children."

This is what I had presumed they would do, because it would not be in their short-term interests to strike, since they know the city is stuck between a rock and a hard place financially. More importantly, there is a majority of the school committee ready and willing to use the nuclear option, if it came down to it -- and they know it.

There are three good things about "work to rule": First, it reinforces the idea that the teachers' union is in this for their own self-interests, and not the children's, because it's the children that will get the short end of the stick. Secondly, it tends to backfire on the teachers, turning the public against them, because the parents of the students get to see it for what it is. Lastly, it gives the school committee a better idea of all the things that should be included in the new contract, so that they can't use our school children as pawns in the future.

Posted by: Will at November 2, 2008 4:55 PM

Insightful comments as always Tom and Will.

Will I have been following the EP situation but I'm not sure what you mean by the "nuclear option".

Posted by: Frank at November 2, 2008 6:15 PM

The "nuclear option" is a euphemism. It would probably be a bit messy, but it would generally refer to terminating all of them, and quickly hiring replacement workers from elsewhere (think "PATCO"). Don't think I'm kidding about that either. In this economic environment, especially in East Providence, it is absolutely something that is on the table. With 8.8% unemployment, anyone is replaceable.

There will probably be some thinning of the ranks, regardless of the outcome of this contract issue. The truth is, we have too many teachers and administrators for a city our size, with steadily decreasing student enrollment. Personnel costs are our major cost driver.

PS I've always been a fan of Roman "decimation" myself. ;)

Posted by: Will at November 2, 2008 7:25 PM

Dont they still get free health care? Boy that sure is a reason to be upset! Cmon - im in the wrong profession - im going to enroll at RIC, get a B.S. in Ed. and go teach History and Politics in EP - id probably be making more money than i do now....

Posted by: Robert A Paquin III at November 2, 2008 7:30 PM

its time....there are thiusands of very qualified teachers that want and dont have jobs. there would be a week or so of disruption but hire replace ments and everything will be better in the long run.

if it were my kids in school, i would vote for replacements in asecond.

its time.

Posted by: johnpaycheck at November 2, 2008 11:12 PM

Has anyone seen George Elbow? Not to take away from the comment quality of other "greats" here like Will and Tom W. But, I really miss that guy.

Posted by: George at November 3, 2008 12:38 AM


Actually, I have seen the other "George." He's been very exceptionally busy as of late, and therefore, commenting has probably not been a high priority. However, he'll likely be significantly less so after Tuesday's elections.

Posted by: Will at November 3, 2008 2:31 AM

Thanks Will. I thought that was what you were referring to but I wasn’t aware that there was an elected body out there that was gutsy enough to consider it. Hats off to the East Providence school committee for being willing to play hardball with the teacher’s union. This is exactly what Rhode Island needs: individuals with bravery and intelligence standing up to those entrenched and powerful interests that have been running, and ruining, our state.

Posted by: Frank at November 3, 2008 10:33 AM

I think what administrations need to start doing is figuring out what doesn't get done during "work to rule" and put it in the contract as normal daily activities for the teachers. Then they can work to rule all they want. Just as long as they stick to the terms of the contract.

Posted by: James L at November 3, 2008 1:08 PM

By the way, Will is misinformed. Again. The Teachers did not vote to engage in work to rule.

A retraction would be nice. If you are going to do scoop, at least get the facts right.

Posted by: Pat Crowley at November 3, 2008 2:21 PM

If I am misinformed, it is only because I have been provided incorrect information from my trusty union mole. I'll check back in and get you a clarification if necessary. It's my understanding that since they agreed to work under the old contract, that they are limiting themselves to what is specifically required of it. That would be de facto, if not actual, "work to rule."

Posted by: Will at November 3, 2008 4:55 PM

And you would be wrong Will in your assumption. As usual. I wonder if you'll have Monique make the correction.

Monique, will you make the correction?

Posted by: Pat Crowley at November 3, 2008 5:02 PM

Hey, this article is false... They are working under the old contract. THIS IS NOT THE SAME AS WORK TO RULE... This means business as usual.In my case I work from about 7am - 4pm... If it was work to rule I would have to leave at 2. It cracks me up about all the false information. Teachers are willing to co-pay, forgo good health coverage for a lesser plan, and take a pay freeze. I like how the article barely states this. At least if people are being critical- Get the facts straight. The headline is even wrong.

Posted by: Ron at November 3, 2008 6:44 PM

The teachers are working as usual and letting the courts settle it. They are just working under the old contract. The duties are exactly the same... Whoever this supposed UNION MOLE is must be a moron because they are wrong. All extra-curricular activities are also still happening... Nothing has changed EXCEPT there is no official contract and the two sides are going to ARBITRATION to work out a deal.

The headline should be fixed. There is no intent on ever working to rule or striking for that matter.

Posted by: Ron at November 3, 2008 6:50 PM

> At least if people are being critical- Get the facts straight. The headline is even wrong.

Well start holding your meetings in public, and negotiations in public, and we'll have no excuse not to "get the facts straight."

Posted by: Tom W at November 3, 2008 7:07 PM

Poor Tom W. looses all that legal work and looks to blame others for it.

Posted by: Pat Crowley at November 3, 2008 9:10 PM

Will Ricci has advised that a clarification is in order - that the vote was, indeed, 1.) not to strike and 2.) to work under the prior contract.

What's interesting is how anxious you are, Pat, and you are, Ron, for a retraction. You obviously attach a negative stigma to the practice of work-to-rule, as well you should, and you wanted it clear that the East Providence union did not vote to work-to-rule yesterday. Other teacher unions around the state have voted to work-to-rule in the past, however. And the considerably detrimental consequences of this (in)action have been visited upon many, many children.

Accordingly, will you, Pat, and you, Ron, join myself and the other commenters on this thread in deploring this unprofessional and destructive practice? It's clear you do deplore it, in view of how strongly you have sought a retraction of the accusation. Will you, further, urge the East Providence and other teacher unions around the state to refuse to engage in this tactic during all future contract negotiations?

Posted by: Monique at November 3, 2008 9:14 PM

I do not agree with work to rule. It accomplishes nothing... strikes also accomplish nothing. However, I am a hard-working, dedicated teacher that even comes home and corrects papers until 9 or 10 at night. I also work a few nights a week snd in the summer part time. I resent some of those comments. I do not demonize your professions because of a few bad seeds. Now if your asking if I will would work to rule if a union voted to... Of course, any fool knows you don't cross a union line, however, I don't support it.

Posted by: ron at November 3, 2008 10:01 PM

Thank you for an honest answer, Ron.

Posted by: Monique at November 3, 2008 11:01 PM

"Accordingly, will you, Pat, and you, Ron, join myself and the other commenters on this thread in deploring this unprofessional and destructive practice?"

If you agree to give teachers a fair dispute resolution mechanism like binding arbitration. See Monique, I know you like to portray this as a very simple question with simple answers, but like most right wing analysis, you miss many levels of interest. You seem like you do understand a lot of things, wo why allow yourself to be twisted by people like Will and Tom W?

And a correction in the comments isn't good enough.

nd one last thing. So many readers question why professionals would engaged in a tactic like only doing the work they are paid to do. Let me ask them, how many professionals they work with have to spend time during their work day watching bathrooms?

Posted by: Pat Crowley at November 4, 2008 6:21 AM

Yes, I agree. The facts should be set straight in the headline. Many people do not read comments. No matter what the STORY, the facts should be CORRECT in my opinion, even if one diaagrees with them. They should be fixed at the top. It makes it seem like you have a hidden agenda, other than to report the truth, by not changing the headline.

Posted by: ron at November 4, 2008 8:00 AM

I AGREE! The headline should be FIXED! It is not enough to fix comments because some people don't read them. if your goal is to tell the truth, and you know for a FACT that the teachers are not working to rule, then the only RIGHT thing to do is fix the headline.Unless of course you have a hidden agenda. That would really dishearten me... Even if I diagreed with someone, I woud report the facts accurately, and if I found out I didn't, I would fix them. So please do the right thing and fix the headline.

Posted by: ron at November 4, 2008 8:06 AM

>>Poor Tom W. looses all that legal work and looks to blame others for it.

Funny, I’ve never performed legal work for any school committee or municipal government or state agency in Rhode Island. Nor have I ever submitted a proposal to any of those entities seeking such work. You may post your correction at any time Mr. Crowley.

Speaking of corrections, I’m not a part of the Anchor Rising team, but personally I’ve no problem with the “headline” being corrected, or other form of correction posted. I would expect no less from RI Future (though I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for it over there).

Just curious, is “work to rule” off of the table completely, or just through the next round of arbitration?

>>I do not agree with work to rule. It accomplishes nothing... strikes also accomplish nothing. However, I am a hard-working, dedicated teacher that even comes home and corrects papers until 9 or 10 at night. I also work a few nights a week snd in the summer part time. I resent some of those comments. I do not demonize your professions because of a few bad seeds.

I will take you at your word, and kudos to you for your personal dedication. But the criticism is not about a few bad seeds, but about the system as warped by unionization. You may devote what hours are necessary for accomplishing your mission, but you are not contractually required to.
Quite the opposite.

You can be a slacker and yet virtually immune from discipline, much less termination. And your pay and benefits will scale up based merely upon your seniority, longevity bonuses and “extras” for degrees, certifications and the like, even if you don’t apply that increased knowledge in the classroom.

If you are as skilled and dedicated as you assert, then you too are being screwed by this system.

Imagine if RI’s schools were staffed almost entirely by people like you, and were no ranked world-class instead of the current below average. RI’s teaching force could rightly demand premium compensation, and the public would be much more inclined to make that “investment.”

Beyond the pinch of property taxes, the resistance the teachers unions are starting to feel across the state is fueled by the increasing realization by the public that we’re paying Cadillac prices and getting Yugo schools.

So you sir, as part of a collective, are lumped in with the folks kicking back and coasting as they run down the clock toward cashing in with their pensions, and those who are tenured though their skills (or application of their skills) never really rose to the level of “high.”

The union model says that you’re all the same, except for your seniority. So sir, don’t complain when you’re judged based upon the less than mediocre average characterizing Rhode Island public schools. It’s nothing personal, it’s just that you’re a fungible unit within the collective, and we’re criticizing the collective lack of performance.

>>If you agree to give teachers a fair dispute resolution mechanism like binding arbitration.

Binding arbitration sounds good in theory, but doesn’t work well in practice. It has been in place in Connecticut for some time, and the taxpayers are taking it “up the wazoo.”

Arbitrators want to get selected, that is how they make money, and so are tempted to “split the baby” giving both sides something so as not to offend one side too much, lest they be blacklisted by that side from being selected in future arbitrations.

In practice this means that the teachers unions invariably get increases in compensation, whether warranted or not, which of course provides a higher baseline for the next round of “binding arbitration.”

Better that we eliminate the union / union boss middleman, and restore teachers to the level of true professionals enjoying professional and community esteem.

One doesn’t get quality on the cheap – so we should benchmark what educators and other similar workers are making across the country to offer competitive pay and benefits, but also accountability and the opportunity for high performers to make higher compensation to reward them for their personal skill and dedication.

Similarly, if the market requires, higher
compensation to attract teachers in high demand / low supply subject areas, such as math and science.

Posted by: Tom W at November 4, 2008 9:15 AM

>>Imagine if RI’s schools were staffed almost entirely by people like you, and were no ranked world-class

I missed a typo. It should have said "were now ranked ..."


Posted by: Tom W at November 4, 2008 9:20 AM

You actually think that they will pay me a decent salary under any circumstance without a UNION... Since it is taxpayer money, they do not want to foot the bill for education. Just look at the pay PRIVATE school teachers get without a union.Most of them need two or three oart time jobs. The union has traditionally saved the working man.

You could have the best teacher on earth and a school district would not pay them $100,000. The tax payers would be livid as they don't value education. People vote with their wallet. Everyone knows that. Many teachers, lawyers, businessmen, etc. also vote with their wallet. If you think differently then you live in a fantasy world.

Posted by: ron at November 4, 2008 10:02 AM

By the way if you look in Tuesday's Providence Journal, the East Providence school committee,the one's trying to cut the budget, signed the new superintendent to a three-year deal at $140,000 and $10,000 worth of extra benefits. He now becomes the THIRD highest paid superintendent in the state. As I recall, Mr. Defaria said everyone has to pitch in and help the budget. Doesn't this start with good LEADERSHIP that is willing to make concessions? This guy was so bad that he lost his job in Foster, and now East Providence decides to pay him an enormous ammount of money. If the people at the top are not willing to help the taxpayers, then how can you expect teachers?

Posted by: ron at November 5, 2008 6:23 PM

This is why I left teaching. As a music teacher, my first concern was for my students...but you can't believe the grief I got when I wanted to do a band practice after school. Teachers don't have the right to strike, so the refuse to do anything over and above what their contract specifically calls for. One school district I know of has told teachers not to sign recommendation letters so students can apply for college. My staff (I'm no longer a teacher remember) is taking a 10% pay cut this year and increasing their co-pay on health insurance (a much less lucrative insurance plan than teachers get). If teachers consider themselves professionals, they should do two things...(1) Act like it, and (2) disband the union. Taxpayers need to wake up.

Posted by: robj at November 12, 2009 10:33 AM