The Hungerford papers: playbook to break the teachers’ union
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:
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