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Important Information Regarding Race to the Top

There has been a lot of information being circulated about a competitive grant called Race to the Top (RT3). States are being given the opportunity to apply for grant money that will flow through the state to local school districts. In order to get any of the money local districts must sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) binding them to do certain things. Many of the items required by the grant are wages, hours and working conditions which are mandatory subjects of bargaining. MEA and local unions around the state are being asked to participate in signing the MOU which binds them to participate in the bargaining of the changes prescribed in the MOU.

Attention: Teachers and Paraprofessionals
The first pay day for the 2009-2010 school year will be August 31, 2009 and then the 10th and 25th of the month from that point forward. In the future the first pay day will be after ten days of work. This issue was resolved by ratification of the teacher and paraprofessional contracts. 

Tentative Agreement Reached

Tuesday, May 19, 2009 MEA and management’s bargaining teams reached a tentative agreement on salary, benefits and working conditions for teachers and paraprofessionals for the ’09-’10 contract year. The tentative agreement was signed after six day-long sessions working with a Federal Mediator.
The agreement for teachers and paras includes:
o     step movement on the salary schedule as required by the contract,
o     restoration of salary (1%) for those at the top of the salary schedules,
o     no change in cost or benefits in health insurance,
o     changes to the language governing pay dates.
There is also a change to language in the teachers’ contract that involves voluntary transfers, the addition of a teacher planning day on the Modified Instructional Week schedule as well as the addition of an annual contract (AC) lane for people whose start date is after July 1st, 2009.
According to MEA President Pat Barber, “We chose to use a collaborative process in an effort to work together on behalf of teachers and paras during these very difficult financial times. Both parties entered bargaining with a desire to repair the relationship between MEA and the district.”
“The collaborative nature of our bargaining this year has led to an agreement that not only is of benefit to everyone involved but is instrumental in establishing strong working relationships that will continue to reap dividends for years to come,” said Assistant Superintendent Herb Tschappat.

Manatee Education Association to Push for Clarification of ‘Financial Urgency’

March 4, 2009 - Earlier this week, the Florida Public Employees Relations Commission ruled against MEA in its unfair labor practice charge against the Manatee School District. The decision means that, for now, the 1% pay cut that the district imposed on school district employees in August will remain in place. 
“I am both disappointed and frustrated with PERC’s decision,” said Pat Barber, President of MEA. “We are still in the same position in which we started. We lack a definition and a procedure for declaring financial urgency under Section 447.4095.”
MEA’s argument was that the school district must demonstrate true financial urgency prior to invoking the expedited negotiations and impasse procedures under Florida Statute 447.4095. 
Unfortunately, that statute does not define the phrase “financial urgency” and both parties had hoped for a clearer interpretation of the statute. Regrettably, the PERC decision provides no guidance as to when and what type of financial urgency requires modification of an existing agreement. According to PERC, the mere invocation of the statute requires the union to participate in the process or be subject to an unfair labor practice for refusing to bargain. 
PERC commissioners declined to apply the standards set forth in Chiles v. UFF, to the case. That decision by the Florida Supreme Court says that a compelling state interest must be proven prior to modification of a contract. Under Chiles, contracts may not be impaired unless there are no other possible funding sources to address financial urgency.
“When coupled with the statutes that protect the contractual obligations to private vendors, the PERC decision seems to say to school districts and other public employers, ‘Cut employees first,’ ” Barber said.
In his dissent, departing Commissioner Charlie Kossuth said he believed that the school district violated the law by “improvidently and prematurely declaring a financial urgency and using this to abrogate a binding contractual obligation”. He urges the application of Chiles by requiring proof that no other funding was available.
The Manatee Education Association and its state affiliate will appeal the decision in light of its broad implications to all public sector unions.

Recommended Order Issued - PERC Yet to Rule

Bradenton, FL- On December 3, 2008, Hearing Officer Jack Ruby issued a recommended order in the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) filed by the Manatee Education Association (MEA) against the Manatee County School Board. The subject of the ULP was an allegation that the School Board improperly invoked financial urgency in an effort to expedite bargaining and criticized MEA’s action in negotiations.

Ruby’s recommendation is denial of MEA’s charges. The recommendation will now go to the Public Employee Relations Commission.
Although disappointed in the hearing officer’s recommendation, the process is a long way from completion. MEA fully intends to file exceptions to the hearing officer’s recommended order.
Tom Brooks, attorney for MEA, believes that Ruby failed to address the fundamental legal issues regarding the interpretation of the financial urgency statute raised in the complaint. Ruby essentially said MEA should have been willing to sit down and discuss the issues. Of course MEA was willing and all correspondence show MEA never refused to do so.
MEA and Brooks remain confident that MEA will ultimately prevail as the facts and the law are on our side.

School Board Votes to Unilaterally Change Employees' Health Insurance Benefits

As predicted, the School Board of Manatee County voted on Wednesday, September 24, 2008 to unilaterally change the district's health insurance plan. Click here to view the benefits associated with this unilaterally adopted plan. The MEA is taking the appropriate steps to challenge the board's action.

PERC Sets Hearing Date in ULP Charge

PERC (Public Employees Relations Commission) has scheduled Friday, October 3, 2008 as the date to hear arguments in the Unfair Labor Practice charge MEA filed against the School Board of Manatee County. Click here to read PERC's Notice of Hearing.

PERC Agrees To Hear Unfair Labor Charge

Click here to read Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC)’s Notice of Sufficiency.