August 28, 2009

A Union Gotcha in the Contract

Justin Katz

Given recent developments, I thought I'd review my notes and the audio from the Tiverton School Committee meeting at which the members approved a largely retroactive contract. Several townsfolk warned the committee that approving the contract in the current economy was reckless. I specifically suggested that, former Vice Chair Mike Burk's suggestion to "hold the line" with the subsequent contract notwithstanding, the union would have every incentive to avoid negotiations at this time. But four of the five committee members thought it would be the fair, community-minded thing to pass the contract (PDF) and move on to negotiations for the next one — which should cover the upcoming school year — in a spirit of collegiality.

Well, the union must have been snickering behind its hand, with Article 31 of the approved document (carried over from the previous contract) in mind:

The provisions of this Agreement shall be effective as of September 1, 2007 and will continue and remain in full force and effect until August 31, 2009. Said Agreement will automatically be renewed and will continue in full force and effect for additional periods of one (1) year unless either the School Committee or the Association gives written notice to the other not later than December 1 of the year prior to the aforesaid expiration date, or any anniversary thereof, of its desire to reopen the Agreement and to negotiate over the terms of a successor Agreement.

Never mind that the contract wasn't approved until after the deadline, the union is insisting that notice was not given, so the contract remains in force until next year. As the Newport Daily News reports, that serves to keep all salaries where they are — with step increases continuing, of course — and prevent the school committee from realizing the increase in healthcare contributions for which it had budgeted.

Even union-friendly committee member Sally Black was "surprised" by the move. Gotcha.

See, to the union, talk of community, fairness, openness, honesty, education, and the good of children is merely a pack of cards to play. It's all about the adults and their remuneration and their benefits and their occupational comfort and soaking taxpayers for the maximum amount possible. If I were a teacher, I'd be ashamed to be associated with such an organization. As a taxpayer, I've certainly got my eye out for school committee candidates who won't be so easily fooled.

As services for students begin evaporating and taxes go up, parents and their neighbors should be careful to allocate blame where it belongs: With the calculating, manipulative union that represents the single largest expenditure in either of the town's budgets.

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When are you dopes finally going to realize what I have been telling you?

Now come on pigs, tell me how mean and nasty I am, while you go around being the GREEDY PIGS you are!

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at August 28, 2009 2:58 PM

Tiverton should file Chapter 9 now, before the rush.

It's going to get crowded up at the bankruptcy court once the dominoes start falling: Woonsocket, West Warwick, Cranston, North Providence ...

Posted by: Tom W at August 28, 2009 3:11 PM

"parents and their neighbors should be careful to allocate blame where it belongs: With the calculating, manipulative union that represents the single largest expenditure in either of the town's budgets."

Actually, first in line for blame is the public body in whom we have vested with the authority to execute contracts on our behalf - so vested on the basis that all such actions would be taken, minimally, with prudence and eyes wide open. And if they also wanted to involve some exerienced counsel, that'd be good, too.

Posted by: Monique at August 28, 2009 4:04 PM


Are we sure that they were surprised, or are they just acting that way for the public?

Posted by: Tom W at August 28, 2009 4:25 PM


Of course you're correct, but having just mentioned finding new candidates for the committee, I wanted to contradict the usual misconception — namely, that school committee culpability exculpates the union and implicates something other than union contracts as the problem.

Posted by: Justin Katz at August 28, 2009 4:50 PM

No one should harbor any illusions, Justin, about the motives of the union. As in many other instances, they acted solely in the best interest of their members and definitely not for the community, "for the children" (a rim shot should go off whenever anyone says that seriously) or for any other greater good.

TomW, short of reading minds, it would be difficult to say with certainty. But it almost doesn't matter. If they were surprised by the presence of the clause, they did not do the job they undertook and have let down the public. If they were not surprised, wouldn't it border on criminal ...? Either way, it's unacceptable.

Posted by: Monique at August 28, 2009 9:27 PM

>>Either way, it's unacceptable.

No argument there.

That photo of Pat Crowley flipping the bird in Tiverton comes to mind.

Posted by: Tom W at August 28, 2009 10:21 PM

The ring-around-the-roses closed circle reasoning exemplified by this blog reminds me of n old Appalachian folk song that contains these verses:
"What'll we hunt says Rick to Rob,
What'll we hunt says Robin to Bob
What'll we hunt says Daniel to Joe,
We'll hunt the rat says Billy Barlow.

How'll we hunt him says Rick to Rob
How'll we hunt him says Robin to Bob
How'll we hunt him says Daniel to Joe
Borrow a cannon says Billy Barlow..."

For Billy Barlow read Justin Katz and for his chorus read Rick and Rob and Robin and Bob and Daniel and Joe.

Moral = Irrational people with irrational ideas.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at August 29, 2009 10:20 AM

What in the hell is your point?

As is typical accross the state, the dopey SC signed a contract they didn't understand (as evidenced by Sally Black's after the fact "suprise").

Bottom line: nobody should be signing multi-year contracts that provide guaranteed pay & benefits in an economy that has no guarantees. And for those chicken-crap Union hack leeches who fear the free market like the mouse that fears the cat, if they don't like it, they are free to go get jobs elsewhere. Wouldn't you agree, OTL?

Posted by: George Elbow at August 29, 2009 12:34 PM

OTL, (out to lunch)
A fried, crisp brain is generally irrational, which is how I would characterize your thoughts that are, more than likely, the product of excessive drug use.
You remind me of a friend we call "Crispy". Like you, he's he's quite enamored with himself, and alone in that regard. Quite a fitting name for you as well.

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at August 29, 2009 5:01 PM

Mike capelli, you have a friend that you call "Crispy" and you are proud of that?

Posted by: David at August 29, 2009 9:28 PM

Actually, justin, you may be on to something. Union officials act as legal representatives for their membership and are charged with only that mission. The example that you wrote about- well that's all on the school committee for not knowing their own contract with the union. You insist on calling it a union contract when it is a contract between two parties. Both are held to its terms. Where you have something is in the reality that individual union members are often times members of the community where they work, and, are often times very interested and concerned about issues facing their community. In the case of teachers, police, firefighters, and social workers it is often the case that they are more concerned- because they have a closer view and knowledge of local issues and problems than say a Boston area worker who leaves their home in Tiverton at 6:30 in the morning and returns at 6:30 at night. Teachers often times know the community through the children better than anyone else. If you can convince those community members that their union representatives are the problem and change is needed in their own workplace than you will have a chance. Union members acting in the democratic framework of their union could help affect the changes you seek.

Posted by: David at August 29, 2009 9:58 PM


While the non-public employee is off to work at 6:30am and returning home after 6:00 pm, the Unions (their members and their reps) are raping & pillaging us.

Read any contract ...they are all about adult Entitlements ...about maximizing pay & benefits, while minizing actual work / effort.

In this day in age, with all the OSHA and other labor related laws, there is no need for Unions.

RI should be a "right to work" state. Gov'ts should be able to decide what they can afford to pay and leave it at that "negotiating" with collective bargaining units.

If what the gov'ts determine to be affordable to the taxpayers is in fact not enough to attract qualified employees, then that will become quickly apparent and they can adjust ...based on free market principals as opposed to Union-hack extortion via Strikes, Work-to-Rule, Sick-outs, law suits, etc.

It is a very simple process: Here is what we can afford to pay. If you can not afford to stay with us, don't let the door hit you on the way out as you take your talents elsewhere.

Wouldn't you agree that this is how it should work?

Posted by: George Elbow at August 29, 2009 10:51 PM

>>If you can convince those community members that their union representatives are the problem and change is needed in their own workplace than you will have a chance. Union members acting in the democratic framework of their union could help affect the changes you seek.

That fact that these teachers so attuned to the community, and presumably capable of recognizing by themselves the impact of the union leadership, aren't using that "democratic framework of their union" says much about them, does it not?

Though, in fairness to them, I must say that (like most unions) the "union democracy" is more theoretical than real. For example, most unions only allow voting on a local rep - rank and file members don't get to vote for statewide or national union officials.

Posted by: Tom W at August 29, 2009 11:55 PM

mike capelli
Let me try the A,B,C approach. It may be simple enough for the average cephalopod, but perhaps is too taxing for you. Here goes:
A. The refrain refers to a group of functional morons trying to decide which idiotic practice to pursue.
B. The round-robin between them represents poor thought and circular thinking and is presented with humor which is obviously beyond you. The refrain is over 100 years old, and part of our folklore.
C. The closed chorus circle represents Justin and his sycophants, of which you number.

"You try to devour a camel and can only strain out a gnat." Get it?? I doubt it. You are too anal retentive.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at August 30, 2009 9:52 AM

Until some school district has the guts to take the bull by the horns, insist on a contract that is fair to the taxpayer and adopt a "to hell with the unions" attitude, school committees will continue to shake and quake before the NEA. Someone has to draw the line before the poor taxpayer has to hand over his house, car and all else he/she owns, so that the "poor, overworked, penny-pinching, PROFESSIONAL (?), teacher can make do financially. How poor they are!! The average working Rhode Islander should be so poor and overworked!!

Posted by: hls at August 30, 2009 12:09 PM

out to lunch,
Your propensity to respond with "anal" references is creepy.
Lay off the crack pipe, creep.

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at August 30, 2009 8:12 PM
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