In what came as a surprise to us in the office, we recently found out that the district had made the decision to return to traditional bargaining. They are able to do this because both parties need to agree to use IBB in order for us to use that process in negotiations. We weren't given any rationale from the district on this change, but regardless, we feel it is imperative that we explain how this change is going to impact negotiations going forward.
What is IBB again?
UTW and the district decided to try and use Interest Based Bargaining instead of traditional negotiation over a decade ago in an attempt to improve communication between both teams and solve more problems.
IBB is based on a few core principals designed to improve communication and focus on problem solving instead of competition and conflict.
Those core issues are:
- Teams must have the authority to make decisions for their respective parties.
- Issues must be presented instead of proposals.
- All relevant information should be shared among both teams.
- There should be a continued focus on problem-solving instead of competing.
- Less difficult/non-monetary issues should be resolved first.
- Communications to the public should be joint statements.
So, what is Traditional Bargaining?
Traditional bargaining is more akin to what most people think of when it comes to negotiations. UTW and the district will still have separate negotiation teams, but under traditional bargaining, only our spokesperson (Greg Jones) will discuss with the district's spokesperson (William Tretbar) to negotiate the specific language in the contract.
Our team will be in attendance, and will have the option to "caucus" privately with our spokesperson as needed. Our team will still be limited to the negotiations topics as discussed below, but instead of directly communicating with the district's team, our team will offer advice and direction for our spokesperson.
Is this a good thing or a bad thing?
There are certainly two sides to this coin, and it will be imperative on all of us to make the most of our situation to address the needs and concerns of all certified staff, but ultimately we think that the positives outweigh the negatives.
Confrontational: As stated earlier, we initially moved away from traditional bargaining in order to decrease hostility and increase collaboration during negotiations. Depending on who you ask, that effort may or may not have been in vain, but there is no doubt among people that have experienced traditional bargaining, that it is ultimately more difficult to avoid confrontation using this bargaining method.
Not Solutions Oriented: Whereas IBB is meant to be a tool for both teams to find solutions to the problems they bring to the table, traditional bargaining is about trying to get as much from the other side while giving as little as possible. It is feasible that there may be situations where both sides could reasonably agree on a possible solution, but refuse to give in because of what they think the other side might be trying to gain by making the change.
Clear Communication: The IBB process requires both teams to communicate through joint statements, and this has led to many of our members feeling confused or disconnected from the negotiations process. Under traditional bargaining we can and will open up our lines of communication in order to ensure that all of our members are aware of every step going forward.
Efficiency: Since there is less conversation happening at the table, and we aren't there to problem solve, we'll hopefully be able to complete the negotiations process in less time compared to IBB (though we will still be constrained if the state legislature has not voted on funding).
Less One-Sided: Often times we spend a lot of time on district issues that are non-monetary under IBB, and in an effort to be diplomatic we find ways to compromise. Unfortunately, the issues that matter most to our members tend to have a financial component, and by the time we get to those issues, we often find that the district is uninterested in compromise. With traditional bargaining, we can spend time and political capital on the issues that really impact our members.
Both parties are free to pick the members of their teams as needed. The district usually gets a mix of HR personnel, building administrators, and curriculum leaders. Their team reports back to BOE as necessary.
According to our Constitution and Bylaws, our president appoints team members for approval from E-Board and Pro-Reps. Our team is the same as it was last year.
Here are the people that will be serving on the team. Our president selected these members because she feels that they are widely respected, professional, willing to have hard conversations with the BOE team, and will work to come up with solutions to the issues presented.
- Kimberly Howard (UTW President)
- Greg Jones (KNEA Uniserv Director)
- Brent Lewis (North High, Business)
- Diane Smith(Ortiz, PE & AMAC, Curriculum Coach)
- Jennifer Porter (Allen Elementary, Sped)
- Shaun Small (Brooks, English)
- Susie McDonough (Linwood Elementary, 4th Grade)
Brace yourselves. This next chart is fairly complex, but it goes over what may or may not happen during the negotiations process.
The blue items represent the negotiations process, the green items represent the Tentative Agreement Vote process, the orange items represent the Impasse process, and the red items represent the Fact-Finding Process.
According to Kansas Statutes, there are a set amount of topics that are required for negotiation. Even though the IBB process can open the door for more topics to be considered, the only ones that the district are required to negotiate are on the following chart.
There are some topics that the state says that can be negotiated, but each party is limited to only three choices from the following list.
Lastly, as long as both parties agree to them, other topics can be added for negotiations as long as they abide by K.S.A. 72-5413(I)(1). Section C is shown down below. This language makes it possible for ANYTHING to be under negotiation as long as both parties agree that it falls under "properly related to professional service."
UTW Negotiation Priorities for 2021
We'll be using the data from the workload survey in conjunction with the results of the negotiations survey that we sent out to members.
How You Can Help
- Stay informed: follow us on social media, read our newsletter, read district notices, stay up-to-date on what is happening with the legislature.
- Reach out to BOE Members: The BOE wants and needs to hear from teachers throughout this process in order for them to make the best decisions for teachers. Here is a link to their contact information.
- Attend a BOE Meeting: Meeting times and location are at this link. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to speak at a BOE meeting.
- Attend a Negotiations Meeting: Each meeting is communicated in advance to the public, and anyone may attend the meeting (not all meetings are after school).
- Be Ready: While we hope for a quick negotiations process that benefits both parties, it is always possible that negotiations may break down. In the event that we are unable to come to an agreement, we'll need to be ready to mobilize online and in-person.