On Wednesday, April 25, your CUTA bargaining met with the District for continued negotiations. This session was different, because we received a refresher training on the interest based bargaining process.
Some of you will remember that three years ago, CUTA and CUSD agreed to change from traditional bargaining, sometimes called positional bargaining, to interest based bargaining (IBB). Those of you that have worked in Chico Unified for more than a few years will remember how confrontational our former bargaining relationship was with the District. When we nearly went out on strike three years ago, both sides felt something needed to change, and one of our School Board members suggested we try IBB. Chico Unified had experimented with IBB in the nineties without much success, but CUTA and CUSD were willing to try it again. The results have been very good.
Interest based bargaining works when both sides are willing to be open and transparent about their concerns. On any given issue, small or large, both sides develop a list of interests. Generally, we find that we share many of the same interests. We then go through a non-judgmental brainstorming session where we try to come up with many different options for achieving compromise on the issue at hand. We then work hard to clarify and understand the import of the various options. After we have gathered as much information as we can on our various options, we work to achieve consensus through the unanimous agreement of all members on both bargaining teams. Sometimes this process can be very slow, but it has allowed us to be much more open and honest with each other, and IBB is what made this year’s TA possible.
Our refresher course on Wednesday was designed to keep us on the right track and provide training for some of the newer members of the bargaining team. We spent the morning reviewing the process and procedures of IBB, and we spent the afternoon practicing IBB on a real issue: return rights. Specifically, we are negotiating whether or not a member has a right to return to their site and/or exact position after a leave of absence. There are various types of leave, and we need to identify which leaves have return rights and which do not, if any. We also need to determine how the length of leave impacts return rights.
Other issues we will be discussing in our final two negotiations sessions of the year include, but are not limited to:
Lastly, I want to encourage you to sign up for income protection through the Standard, if you have not already done so. The practice of being able to solicit for donations of sick leave is against IRS rules, and the District will no longer allow the practice. A member could find him or herself in serious financial trouble without this safety net. The District has agreed to continue the current practice of donated sick leave through September 30, which allows members the opportunity to join the Standard during open enrollment, which runs from September 1 through September 30. Much more information about the Standard will be coming from CUTA.
Thank you for taking the time to stay informed.
Chico Unified Teachers Association
Mary Schoenthaler serves as Vice President and Public Relations Chair for CUTA.