Signing Collective Agreements Without Reading Them?

Salaries and benefits for members of collective bargaining units make up the vast majority of Timberlane’s $70 million budget.  Those who watch the school board meetings will remember that I resisted voting on the new teacher’s contract in December because the final contract had not been given to the board.  We were being required to vote on merely a verbal summary of the contract given to us by one member of the negotiating committee. Our then board chairman, Nancy Steenson, said I was legally obliged to vote for the contract as I had been part of the negotiating team and that this would be an issue for our district lawyer. When I stuck to my guns, a non-public session was called then and there, and I was given “marked up” contract changes apart from the entire contract. No one else from the previous board cared to see anything in writing and we never did see the final contract. (Meeting video provided here.)

Well, it seems Timberlane is not alone when it comes to collective agreements. Here is an article written by Mike Antonucci and published on his blog, on June 2.

“Is Your School Board Signing Contracts Without Reading Them?”  (Source: Signing Contracts Without Reading Them)

In April the Palatine Township Elementary District school board in Illinois approved an unprecedented 10-year collective bargaining agreement with the local teachers’ union. The union also approved the contract. But there were two more details about the negotiations that were also unusual, as reported by the Daily Herald:

“District Superintendent Scott Thompson said specific dollar amounts in the contract are still being worked out, but a news release from the district says annual increases for most teachers will average about 2.5 percent for the first four years and about 4 percent for the last six years.” (emphasis added)

“The District 15 negotiating team included Thompson, Chief School Business Official Mike Adamczyk, and Lisa Nuss, former president of the teachers union and now head of the district’s human resources department.”

People often claim that because of their campaign support for school board candidates, teachers’ unions can negotiate from both sides of the table. In this case it was literally true. But how did the board and the union approve a contract without knowing the “specific dollar amounts”?

Simple. A little more digging by the Daily Herald revealed the school board never read the proposed deal while unanimously approving it. Board members were briefed in closed session by the negotiation team and given a three-page summary of the contract. They then discussed the agreement for “about four minutes” in open session before ratifying it.

This discovery calls the legal validity of the contract into question, since it is unclear whether the two sides ratified an actual collective bargaining agreement and, if they did, if they both ratified the same document.

The Daily Herald found four other local school districts whose boards had ratified contracts without having the final document. One district still doesn’t have a final document even though it was ratified last December.

Timberlane’s support staff contract is coming up for renewal. Members of the public might want to take a look at our district’s negotiating committee for that exercise: Personnel Committee.

If you haven’t already, I urge you to see my previous blog posting about our collective agreement, the inaccuracies in summarizing it and the expectation that it be ratified without having been read. No-read contracts


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