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Contract Negotiations Processes and Timeline FAQ

Negotiations Processes

Q: How is the BFT Negotiations Team chosen? Who is on the team?

A: The BFT Negotiations Team is nominated by the BFT President and approved by the Executive Board, as required by the BFT Constitution and By-Laws.

The team Is led by BFT President Cathy Campbell. She is joined by BFT VP Matt Meyer, BFT Treasurer Angela Reed, BFT Secretary Cynthia Allman,  BHS School Psychologist Susan D’Orazio, BHS teacher Susi Lopez, King Middle School Mild/Moderate Full Inclusion teacher Amanda Cardno, Washington Elementary teacher Janine Waddell, Washington Moderate/Severe Full Inclusion teacher Hillary Trainor and CFT Field Rep Zev Kvitky.

Q:  Who sits on the BUSD Negotiations Team?

A: District managers and site administrators typically make up the BUSD team.  There is usually a BUSD-retained attorney on the team as the Chief Negotiator. We will not know the members of the BUSD team for this year until negotiations begin in March.

Q: What is the timeline for negotiations?

A: Preparation for negotiations take place from September to February.  Face-to-face negotiations take place starting in March. The BFT and BUSD teams tend to meet together twice per month.

Q:  When and how can members expect updates on the negotiations process?

A:  Negotiations Updates will be published after each session. There will be membership meetings on the topic of negotiations on March 7, May 2 and May 30. Site Contract Action Teams will update members via email and in person, and the BFT Executive Board will receive regular updates.

Q: How will results of the BFT surveys and listening sessions be shared with the general membership?

A: Survey results will be discussed at the December, January and February Exec Board meetings. They will be shared on a case by case basis, as determined by the Negotiations Team. BFT follows CFT best practices with regards to survey data. The guiding principle is to be as transparent as possible without jeopardizing our strategic positions. The District can use survey data to divide the membership and find reasons to not come to an agreement.

Q: When and how will BFT determine what proposals to make and how to prioritize them?

A: BFT uses survey results, notes from listening sessions, member emails and grievances to determine issues that need to be addressed in negotiations. Discussions of priorities will be held with the Exec Board in January and February.

Q: How does BFT decide what negotiations processes will be this year?  

A: Negotiations tend to follow a timeline consisting of phases: Preliminary, Opening, Exploratory, and Closing. The main part of negotiations is the exploring phase where proposals are introduced, teams discuss independently and form counter proposals.  Our BFT Constitution and By-Laws provides the timeline for ratifying the agreement.

Q: Are BFT leaders trained in negotiations?  Does CFT assist BFT with negotiations?

A: BFT leaders have taken the intensive CFT Summer School course in negotiations. Additionally, all members of the Negotiations Team are trained in advance. This year, the trainer for the Summer School course is training our team. Additionally, our CFT Field Rep helps the BFT team draft proposals and sits at the negotiations table with us.

Q: What is the state of the BUSD budget?

A: BUSD has made budget cuts the last two years and will be making budget cuts for at least one more year in order to balance their budget. Increased revenues have not kept up with increased expenditures. The BUSD reserve is small compared to other districts and has been decreasing to pay for increasing expenditures. That being said, BFT is making the case that increased employee compensation needs to be a priority for the District. BFT carefully reviews the BUSD budget each negotiations cycle to look for areas of waste, overspending and overestimating expenditures.

Mobilizing Members to Gain Power at the Table (Contract Campaign)

Q: What is the overall Contract Campaign plan between January and June?

A: January through March is a period where we plan to focus on “moderate” actions (versus “mild” actions). Sites will be engaging with parent groups and planning site based actions. There will be actions on the Elementary PD day and Berkeley High Open House. Once negotiations begins we will escalate our actions, holding mass mobilizations at Board meetings, site ‘walk-ins’, and interfacing with our community.   If we do not reach a Tentative Agreement in May, we will start off next year squarely in “moderate” actions and move to “high” actions depending on how negotiations are going.

Q:  How is BFT gauging member activism and willingness to take “high stakes” contract campaign actions such as a strike?

A:  BFT is tracking data on participation in mild and moderate contract campaign actions such as PD sticker days, site t-shirt days, membership mobilizations to School Board meetings (such as March 13, 2019), attendance at speakers’ trainings, willingness to speak at school board meetings, having an active Contract Action Team at each site, etc.  High member participation in these events is a prerequisite for higher level actions.

Q: How is BFT gathering information about members’ skill sets that could be used in the contract campaign?

A: This information is gathered via Site Reps, especially from Contract Action Team members.  BFT is open to ALL ideas for contract campaign actions. BFT is encouraging Contract Action Teams to plan site based actions utilizing our members’ skills.

Q:  How is BFT working with BCCE?

A: BFT is planning joint actions with BCCE, such as our sticker day action on Nov. 2nd, BFT solidarity action on September 26th, 2018 and the joint action on November 14, 2018.  BFT officers talk regularly with BCCE President Linette Robinson and have asked for early notice of BCCE actions so that we can recruit members to attend and support classified employees. We have invited BCCE to be part of all of our planned contract actions.

Q:  Is BFT coordinating with other Bay Area unions?

A:  Yes, definitely.  Both the BFT President and OEA President sit on the Alameda Labor Council Executive Committee and are in frequent communication.  In addition, BFT is part of a coalition of all teachers’ unions in the East Bay which is planning joint actions, such as the Rally for Public Education on January 12th. BFT is also part of a statewide coalition, California Educators Rising, which is focused on support for UTLA and Oakland, and on the struggle for full funding of public education in our state.

Q: What does “Red for Ed” have to do with our own union efforts?  Why is it important to show solidarity with other unions?

A: The fight for adequate school funding is not unique to Los Angeles or Oakland; this is a statewide fight and BFT is committed to this larger struggle.  California is the 5th largest economy in the world and home to more billionaires than any other state, but we rank 43rd in per pupil funding. The under funding of education in California furthers the “failing schools” narrative and strengthens the movement for charter schools, standardized testing and further privatization.  We need a statewide movement, and solidarity with other unions, to demand full funding of education.

Q: What is required under California law with regards to a strike?  What is the timeline?

A: California law governs the right of public employees to go on strike.  If negotiations reach “impasse” and the sides cannot come to an agreement, they are required under law to use outside parties to resolve the conflict prior to any work stoppage.  First a mediator will attempt to reach an agreement in a process which is informal and confidential. If mediation fails, a fact-finding panel is convened to conduct a formal hearing of evidence from both sides.  The panel includes one person appointed by the Union, one appointed by the employer, and a neutral hearing officer who can be appointed by the State Conciliation and Mediation Service. After weighing the testimony from both sides, the hearing officer writes an advisory report with recommendations for a settlement.  Once that report is made public, the Union has the right to strike, and the employer has the right to implement their final offer.