June 8, 2005

More Background Information on the East Greenwich NEA Labor Dispute

For the purpose of historical completeness and to show you the uphill battle the new East Greenwich School Committee faced from the beginning last Fall when they took office, this November 2004 press release by the School Committee - which is not available on the web - is offered for the public record:

Date: November 19, 2004

To: East Greenwich Residents

From: East Greenwich School Committee Members

Vince Bradley
Sue Cienki
William (Skip) Day
Merrill Friedemann
Steve Gregson, Vice Chairman & Acting Chairman
Al Ross

Subject: Unprincipled Actions by Defeated, Renegade School Committee Members & NEA Union

We are writing you in a state of shock to inform you of the appalling, unethical actions taken this week by certain renegade, outgoing members of the East Greenwich School Committee and the National Education Association (NEA) union representatives. They have compounded their misdeeds by subsequently issuing public statements which are blatant misrepresentations.

For the record and as elected officials acting on behalf of all residents, we feel compelled to publicize the facts:

We represent 6 of the 7 East Greenwich School Committee members. Three of us (Mr. Bradley, Mr. Gregson, Dr. Ross) have served since 2002 and three of us were elected to new terms on November 2 (Ms. Cienki, Mr. Day, Ms. Friedemann).

Two former members of the School Committee (Sue Duff, Chuck Sauer) were defeated in the September 14 Republican primary election. One former member of the School Committee (Jayne Donegan) was defeated in the November 2 election.

Paul Martin was the only re-elected incumbent and his vote total on November 2 was the lowest of any newly elected Committee members.

The results of the November 2 election were certified by town officials on November 10. Ms. Friedemann took her oath of office on November 10. Ms. Cienki took her oath of office on November 15. Mr. Day will take his oath of office on November 22, upon completing his service on another Town committee.

Peter Clarkin, the East Greenwich Town Solicitor, is quoted in today’s Providence Journal as saying there is no problem with the 3 newly elected officials taking office any time after the certification as the Town Charter does not specify when their terms begin. He has verbally reaffirmed this opinion today to Mr. Gregson and Ms. Friedemann. Mr. Clarkin also told Mr. Gregson and Ms. Friedemann that he has reiterated the same opinion to Ms. Donegan today.

Ms. Cienki met with Mr. Martin and Ms. Donegan on November 13 at Main Street Coffee. During this meeting, Ms. Donegan informed Ms. Cienki that she attended her first union negotiating session immediately prior to the November 2 election. Ms. Donegan claimed she had not participated previously because she did not want the teachers to take it out on her children.

A union negotiating session was held at Town Hall on November 16 from 4 p.m. until 10 p.m. Attendees included:

East Greenwich School Committee members: Vince Bradley, Sue Cienki, Skip Day, Merrill Friedemann, and Steve Gregson.

East Greenwich School District attorney: Richard Ackerman.

Mediator: Gerry Cobleigh.

School District official: Mary Ann Crawford.

Ms. Donegan showed up approximately one hour after the start of the November 16 session. During her time at the meeting, Ms. Donegan made the following comments:

In response to one of us saying it was important not to deceive the taxpayers by hiding back end cash givebacks in exchange for a health insurance co-payment, Ms. Donegan told other Committee members that they did not work for the taxpayers and to f*** the taxpayers. She also added that the Committee had no fiduciary responsibility to the town.

When Ms. Cienki told Ms. Donegan about receiving a large number of calls each day from residents asking her to be fiscally responsible in the contract negotiations, Ms. Donegan told her to call them back and tell them to get a second mortgage/equity line of credit or they can sell their home and move the f*** out of town.

Ms. Donegan demanded that Mr. Gregson and Mr. Bradley vote in favor of her proposal being presented to the union. Mr. Gregson and Mr. Bradley both said no.

Ms. Donegan used further inappropriate language when she said she was going to inform the union that certain of us were not intent on putting together a reasonable offer. Our attorney, Mr. Ackerman, asked her not to say such a thing.

After making these inflammatory comments and receiving no support from any other Committee members, Ms.Donegan asked for the right to present her proposal to the union on her own. Mr. Ackerman further advised her not to do so.

Ms. Donegan then stormed out of the meeting announcing she was the smartest person in the room and the rest of us were a bunch of stupid, f****** Republicans.

During the November 16 meeting, Mr. Cobleigh discussed the three major issues of salary, health insurance co-payments and insurance buyback fees with the Committee and offered suggestions about what terms could lead to a settlement after the Committee rejected the latest union offer. A good portion of this conversation occurred after Ms. Donegan left and the Committee members outlined the terms of a counter-proposal to make to the union.

Still during the November 16 meeting, the mediator presented the Committee’s new proposal to the union representatives, Mr. Roger Ferland and Ms. Jane Argentieri, and the three of them discussed it for about 90 minutes. The union representatives then said they wanted to talk it over with their membership.

At the end of the meeting, the mediator told us that we had made more progress that day than had been made in the previous year.

Subsequently, two former members of the School Committee, Ms. Donegan and Mr. Sauer, chose to meet unilaterally this week with both union representatives, Mr. Ferland and Ms. Argentieri, and negotiated a separate "contract." We find this behavior to be deplorable and dishonorable.

It is important to note that all of them took this action without informing any of the six of us (including Mr. Gregson, who is currently Acting Chairman of the Committee) of either the existence of such a meeting or what terms were being proposed.

It is also crucial to note that they conducted these discussions without the presence of either the School Committee lawyer or the mediator.

Ms. Donegan’s and Mr. Sauer’s decision to completely exclude the three of us who have been on the School Committee for 2 years – and who have participated in more negotiating sessions in the last year than she has – nullifies her claim in today’s Providence Journal that the rationale for this unilateral action was the need to avoid the steep learning curve of new Committee members.

Mr. Sauer and Ms. Donegan offered terms without knowing anything about what terms had been developed by the Committee on November 16 with the help of the mediator and presented to the union after Ms. Donegan stormed out of the meeting. The terms offered by Mr. Sauer and Ms. Donegan are unfavorable to the taxpayers when compared to the terms offered to the union on November 16.

These former members of the School Committee have currently scheduled a meeting for next Tuesday, November 23 at 9 a.m. during which time they plan to vote to accept the new "contract." We have been told they claim to have four votes, which can only mean former Committee members Ms. Duff, Mr. Sauer, Ms. Donegan, and current Committee member Mr. Martin are going to vote to approve this renegade "contract."

Given the opinion of the Town Solicitor, we are convinced this proposed meeting and vote have no legal standing.

We are equally offended by the bad faith shown by the union negotiators to hold such a negotiating session with former members and without the presence of our counsel or the mediator, particularly when they knew what had happened on November 16. We are offended that they also chose an attempt to divide-and-conquer instead of dealing directly with us. We are further troubled by their threat, as quoted in today’s Providence Journal, to call a strike vote if we do not cave into approving this illicit "contract." We consider this yet another attempt to exploit our children instead of making a good faith effort to close a contract that meets the needs of all concerned parties.

The six of us stand united in our outrage at this reprehensible bad faith action by former members of the School Committee and the union representatives. We are issuing this statement to inform East Greenwich residents whom we were elected to serve.

We strongly encourage residents to contact their new Town Council members, former School Committee members (Ms. Donegan, Mr. Sauer, Ms. Duff), Mr. Martin, the union representatives, and the media in order to convey their revulsion at these rogue actions which violate mediation principles, good faith and common decency.

In the end, the Town Solicitor ruled that Mr. Sauer and Ms. Donegan were not officially members of the School Committee at the time they engaged in unauthorized discussions with the NEA. As a result, there was never a vote to approve the renegade so-called contract on November 23. But the NEA's decision to engage in improper discussions with the renegade members did contribute to a negative tone for subsequent negotiations with the new School Committee members.


In a nutshell, here is what I think the negotiating position of the East Greenwich School Committee should be on some of the key financial terms of the contract.

In addition to financial issues, management rights are the other big teachers' union contract issue. "Work-to-rule" or "contract compliance" only can become an issue because of how management rights are defined in union contracts. The best reading on this subject is the recent report by The Education Partnership. It is must reading.

East Greenwich NEA teachers' union contract negotiations
The NEA's Disinformation Campaign
East Greenwich Salary & Benefits Data
More Bad Faith Behavior by the NEA
The Debate About Retroactive Pay
Would You Hurt Our Children Just To Win Better Contract Terms?
The Question Remains Open & Unanswered: Are We/They Doing Right By Our Children?
Will The East Greenwich Teachers' Union Stop Their Attempts to Legally Extort Residents?
You Have To Read This Posting To Believe It! The Delusional World of the NEA Teachers' Union
So What Else is New? Teachers' Union Continues Non-Productive Behaviors in East Greenwich Labor Talks
"Bargaining Rights are Civil Rights"

Other Rhode Island public education/union issues
ProJo editorial: Derailing the R.I. gravy train
ProJo editorial: RI public unions work to reduce your family's quality of life
ProJo editorial: Breaking the taxpayer: How R.I. teachers get 12% pay hikes
Selfish Focus of Teachers Unions: Everything But What Is Good For Our Kids
Tom Coyne - RI Schools: Big Bucks Have Not Brought Good Results
The NEA: There They Go, Again!
A Response: Why Teachers' Unions (Not Teachers!) Are Bad For Education
"A Girl From The Projects" Gets an Opportunity to Live the American Dream
Doing Right By Our Children in Public Education Requires Thinking Outside The Box
Debating Rhode Island Public Education Issues
The Cocoon in which Entitled State Employees Live

Broader public education issues
The Deep Performance Problems with American Public Education
Freedom, Hard Work & Quality Education: Making The American Dream Possible For ALL Americans
Parents or Government/Unions: Who Should Control Our Children's Educational Decisions?