The Hungerford papers: playbook to break the teachers’ union

April 28, 2012 at 4:42 am 12 comments

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PARKROSE school board — in collusion with Gresham-Barlow and Reynolds — appears to have been planning since 2009 for the chaos and mayhem that it unleashed on the communities this year.

When the boards claimed they were negotiating a new contract in good faith, it was not true. For a nearly a year they were not negotiating, they were following a playbook.

They were working to a game plan first mooted back in January 2009, and honed by January of this year into a playbook for the district superintendents to try to break the teacher unions.

Their goal was to raise up the administrators, including themselves,… but take back the middle-class family wagesand benefits as well as work-load protections districts had given to the teachers’ unions over the past five years or more.

The argument was that the economic climate made it an opportune time to cut back teacher pay and benefits and squeeze more out of teachers with bigger class sizes and more hours in the classroom… because teachers would never dare to strike.

It was at the 2009 winter conference of the Confederation of School Administrators (OACOA/OASE) that labor lawyer Nancy Hungerford presented her 12-page paper School District Options in Time of Financial Crisis. “Reopen the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and reduce pay or benefits, with or without a reduction in work days,” headlined the opening section.

Classified staff as well as teachers — even former administrators — who have weathered this year’s board actions in Gresham, Parkrose and Reynolds will find paragraphs that ring alarmingly familiar in this three-year-old document.

The paper is a detailed review of case law plus legal options on how to navigate…
❏ introducing “re-opener” clauses,
❏ reducing the hours of classified staff,
❏ changing the length of the school year,
❏ exploiting changes in state funding in bargaining to cut pay and working conditions,
❏ timelines for declaring impasse,
❏ lay offs and how to to avoid Rif’d teachers from returning if jobs open up,
❏ how to use “competence” to replace experienced teachers with less experienced teachers,
❏ bargaining rollbacks,
❏ avoiding unfair labor practices…
❏ down to how to get rid of an administrator.

There is nothing here advocating anything illegal, or even sharp practice. Ms Hungerford and her brood are respected professionals. Rightly so. They could, and no doubt would, write you a detailed, strong brief on how to protect your rights at work against the school board… if you could afford them.

But school boards, with tax-payer dollars and arcane budget heads where spending can be hard to trace, can. And they do pay Ms Hungerford lots and lots of our dollars.

If you look at the Hungerford web site it is clear. The Hungerford family works for the employers. They offer advice, guidance and representation in:

❏ Evaluation, discipline, and dismissal of employees…
❏ Writing and administering plans of assistance for employees…
❏ Employer responsibilities under FMLA/OFLA/ADA…
❏ Non-discrimination and whistle-blower laws…
❏ Representation at the bargaining table…
❏ Interpretation of individual and collective employment agreements…
❏ Representation before the Employment Relations Board, Fair Dismissal Appeals Board, labor arbitrators, and in other administrative hearings…
❏ Representation in the Oregon Court of Appeals and Supreme Court…
❏ Representation in state and federal courts.

Ditto for college employers who want advice on student disciplinary procedures.

Then there’s advice regarding how to manage public meetings and public records issues, representation on ethics and open meetings law requirements, risk prevention recommendations, and so on. Look it up.

The Hungerford family also train senior district staff and administrators.

And, “New! A variety of services are now available to assist districts in negotiating, troubleshooting, and working collaboratively on an ongoing basis with charter schools.”

Ms Hungerford is the go-to lawyer if you are an employer. That’s simply what she does. We all have to make a buck. And that’s how Ms Hungerford and her kids make their buck, in the plural actually with lots and lots of s’s. School boards pay her their hidden tax dollars to work out how to screw — perfectly legally — their custodians, cooks, educational assistants, secretaries, teachers, counsellors, speech therapists, ELL specialists, bus drivers.

Three years ago it was lots of legaleze and small print.

Then son Brian put work in on Bargaining Trends and Bargaining Over Money in Difficult Times over 2010, fleshing out ideas about language, what words and phrases to go into a contract, what words and phrases must come out… from a district point of view.

He was less circumspect in his own language: On sacking “poor teachers,” for instance, “arbitrators are notoriously far less likely to uphold teacher dismissals… Nearly every arbitrator comes from a labor background, none have ever been in a position to have to deal with employee misconduct. The decisions of arbitrators cannot be appealed, no matter how ridiculous they are.”

The advice: “Districts should not, under any circumstances, agree to add back just cause for teacher dismissals.”

This year at the winter conference in the Salishan resort hotel at the end of January it was a powerpoint: New Challenges: Managing Labor, Employee, and Community Relations.

“Communities do not back increased salaries and insurance costs – and employees know it,” Ms Hungerford told her audience of school administrators. New Challenges was about the tactics for introducing the legal assaults mapped out in the previous couple of years.

Not only did they have the legal battlegrounds surveyed, they now had the plan of campaign, the logistics. What to do about a divided board, the chronic emailing parent, excessive public records requests, offensive threatening communications.

The Does and the Don’ts: Do avoid or eliminate any language that limits teacher evaluations. Don’t allow “just cause” as an appeal route for a dismissed teacher. Avoid limitations on measures of teacher effectiveness.

Can a position ever be filled with a new hire if employee on layoff not a “good fit” for opening?

Must added hours be given to classified employees who have lost hours?

When it comes to language, “less is best,” was the order of the day.

That was the playbook. The only problem, the teachers were willing to strike.

The Hungerford papers:

Hungerford School District Options

New Challenges: Managing Labor, Employee, and Community Relations

Bargaining Trends

Bargaining Over Money in Difficult Times

See also:

If I were the super…

Defend Parkrose schools: it’s all about time


Entry filed under: What's on the PiFactory blog....

If I were the super…

12 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Steph  |  May 4, 2012 at 1:06 am

    My husband wants you to change the title to “The Hungerford Games”.

    • 2. PPS  |  May 23, 2012 at 7:39 pm

      Too obvious…

  • 3. Candace  |  May 5, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    So distressing. And confirmation that the Districts’ stance isnt’ about advocacy for the good of the district; but about gaining power.

    And this right-wing mentality is geared toward the leaders of the institutions that teach our children about democracy and civil liberties? About the Bill of Rights? Are we looking at the attempt to end all that our country stands for?

  • 4. David  |  May 12, 2012 at 6:12 am

    Are you sure we’re not talking about Eagle Point here? or

  • 5. Rick Saul  |  May 14, 2012 at 1:35 am

    And now she is advising the Eagle Point School District.

    • 6. Linda Sampson  |  June 3, 2012 at 3:15 am

      And Reynolds School District, PPS, Gresham Barlow, and Parkrose School District too.

  • 7. Linda Sampson  |  May 15, 2012 at 8:18 am

    Our district’s proposals have used all of these guidelines and language issues and so have Gresham Barlow SD and Parkrose SD, all in east Multnomah County in or near Portland, OR. I’m from Reynolds School District. This is so disturbing.

  • 8. Elaine  |  May 17, 2012 at 12:20 am

    This is not “right-wing.” I’m right-wing. This is just plain IMMORAL and DISGUSTING!!

    • 9. Linda Sampson  |  May 24, 2012 at 4:53 am

      As of Monday, May 21, 2012, teachers in my district (Reynolds School District-in and near Portland) went out on strike because the Board is literally trying to break our union. It is getting ugly. District officials and others have already “bumped” teachers deliberately with their cars and police reports have been filed. Today, the union was given a proposal by the mediator, while most of the Board members left the building, ignoring parents, union members, and news media. They said they weren’t coming back until Tuesday the day after Labor Day! Tomorrow, it could get even uglier.

  • 10. Linda Sampson  |  June 3, 2012 at 3:13 am

    Through lots of prayer, dedication, and a lot of hard work, our REA (Reynolds Education Association) in East Multnomah County in the Portland/Troutdale, OR area came to a settlement of our strike on May 26th and it was ratified on Wednesday, May 30th by both the School Board and the union. I’m glad we stood strong and many people in our district learned about the Hungerford Law Firm and their playbook to break unions. Now, the Portland Public School District is using Nancy Hungerford’s daughter, Andrea, as a consultant. The family is making a lot of money from school districts with their endeavor to bust unions. I hope people will share this information to be aware of what can happen to their schools, teachers, classified staff, and others if they follow the Hungerford playbook. We went through it and are still feeling some of the effects of their deeds.

  • 11. mamma seattle  |  February 15, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    are they funded by the Koch brothers also? shameful.

    • 12. Linda Sampson  |  February 15, 2014 at 7:37 pm

      mama seattle, I do not know anything about the Koch brothers, but if the Koch brothers are all about breaking unions, I wouldn’t put it past the Hungerford law firms. We are still feeling some of the repercussions of that contract almost two years ago.


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