How Can Jeffco Union Leaders' Bad Faith Bargaining Be Good for Kids?

Once upon a time not so long ago in a land very close by occurred historic open negotiations between the Jeffco school board and the Jefferson County Education Association. Then union leaders staged an impasse and slammed the door shut. Transparency gone. Citizens were left in the dark.

The open negotiations went away as the process moved to mediation, which made me sad. But I didn’t expect things to go awry so quickly. Apparently, union negotiators unilaterally decided to go public with a tentative agreement they quickly learned the school board would not support. From a Jeffco Public Schools press release:

Within a few hours of leaving the mediation session, the district negotiating team requested changes in the MOU before it was taken to the JCEA board. Those changes were based on feedback from members of the board of education. The district team wanted to ensure non-probationary teachers, who were rated as not effective or partially effective, would not be eligible for a step increase. However, JCEA presented the MOU to its members without the requested changes.

Sounds like bad faith negotiating by JCEA, methinks. Why would they do that? Their plan would give some teachers raises based on where they are on the steps-and-levels seniority scale. The good news is they agreed to the Board’s proposal of a bigger boost in new teacher pay to help make up that deficit.

On the other hand, union leaders also wanted to offer teachers the same raise regardless of whether they rated highly effective or partially effective. The Board said halt to the tentative agreement, wanting to raise the performance bar a bit (somewhere between 90 and 95 percent ought to quality as having at least an Effective evaluation). JCEA cavalierly ignored the revised deal. Uh-oh.

So let me see if I get it straight. When negotiations should be open, union leaders want them closed from public view. Then when the negotiations haven’t yet produced full agreement, they go ahead and spill the beans on results that were supposed to be kept secret. They act as if they can rewrite the rules to their whim. My parents and (ironically) my teacher wouldn’t stand for that.

Now it’s unclear how this process will move forward. Who has made the process a farce thus far? Who has not once, but twice, given strong evidence of bargaining in bad faith? So how can they with a straight face pretend like what they’re doing is good for Jeffco kids?