I do or I don’t for Dougco and teachers union?
Douglas County, CO–After more than 100 hours of negotiating a collective bargaining agreement between Douglas County Schools (DCSD) and the Douglas County Federation of Teachers (DCFT), there is one issue on the table which may not get resolved: An exclusive relationship.
The negotiations, which have been open for public viewing since April, are set to deadline today-June 30th.
If an agreement has not been made between the district and the teachers union Douglas County will become the largest district in Colorado without a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). And quite likely the first school district in the nation to end a union-exclusive relationship.
Teachers unions typically enjoy a non-compete agreement as the sole recognized vendor of such services to teachers in a district.
But Dougco Schools has told DCFT they want to see other people. Or at least other professional organizations.
Douglas County School District has a teaching staff of more than 3,000 employees, and there are as many as 1,000 that have chosen not to join DCFT. Therefore, the district argues, more individual choices made by teachers would be honored by inviting additional professional organizations.
“We want to give more teachers a voice by offering more choices,” said DCSD Assistant Superintendent Dan McMinimee during negotiations earlier this week. He called the change win-win pointing out that DCFT would still be invited to do business with the district…along with other vendors. While offering services through just one provider, McMinimee said, was win-lose for teachers who exercise other options.
DCFT has refused, calling the exclusivity clause “non-negotiable.”
From union business perspective, that is understandable. Should DCFT accept Dougco’s current CBA offer, the union would be conceding its current role as a recognized teachers union. Problem is, if DCFT does not sign a final offer on the table, a collective bargaining agreement would not be in place. Hence the union would still be forfeiting its role as the sole recognized labor organization.
Not happy in general with their end of the collective bargain, DCFT filed for intervention with the Colorado State Department of Labor last week. The letter, written on attorney stationary, suggests that Douglas County Schools are not bargaining fairly with the Federation. The union lists exclusivity as one of the bones of contention, but also several items DCFT has already agreed to.
This is raising plenty of eyebrows and questions:
Is agreeing to something in negotiations, but taking it back when inviting state intervention, doing business in good faith? Could the state labor board, whose president is the former president of AFL-CIO, serve as a neutral bargaining agent? Does the Department of Labor even have a right to trump local control in education? If so, should they?
And does this mean that even if the union agrees to an open relationship with Dougco schools, that it won’t still pursue a do-over by involving government regulators?