It Took 12 Years To Get The Last One Done & It Looks Like It May Take A While To Get A New One Done: On the First Day Of Contract Talks, Buffalo Teacher Federation Reps Walk Out After School District Officials Break A Ground Rule
(BUFFALO, NEW YORK) – In Fall of 2016, the Buffalo Teachers Federation (BTF) ended a 12-year fight to gain a new contract with the Buffalo School District. Now, three years later as Union Negotiators start negotiations on a new deal, talks got off to more than a rocky start when BTF Officials walked out of the first session after the School District “adamantly refused” to agree to a Ground Rule to schedule more than one negotiating session.
According to BTF President Phil Rumore (pictured above), the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT)-affiliated Union had agreed to “significant changes” to the negotiations’ Ground Rules that the sides have used for more than 20 years, but on Tuesday (April 2nd) the District “adamantly refused” to agree to a specific ground rule as talks officially began.
The Ground Rule in question reads: “The parties will schedule in advance a minimum of two tentative negotiating sessions with agreed upon time limits.”
However, School District Reps insisted that they would only agree to scheduling one session in advance, Rumore said.
“That the District ‘adamantly refused to agree to scheduling at least two tentative negotiating sessions in advance, but would only schedule one session in advance, is not only incredible but leads us to believe that they have no interest in reaching a speedy resolution, and are looking to prolong negotiations to wear teachers down.’ ‘It won’t happen,’” Rumore said.
When it became apparent that delay was the obvious intent, BTF Officials got up and walked out, leaving the District to reconsider its position.
“In ‘all my years of negotiating, there has never been a time where both sides didn’t want to schedule as many sessions as possible in advance.’ ‘They are always tentative as circumstances change.’ However, ‘it allows for people to plan, clear their schedule and make progress more quickly.’ This is ‘obviously not the District’s objective,’” Rumore said.
After 12 years of fighting for a new contract - ending what NYSUT described as the longest contract stalemate in the history of Public-Sector Collective Bargaining in New York State, the BTF in October 2016 announced it had secured a three-year agreement that called for its 3,600-plus Membership to receive a 10% raise this year, as well as a one-time, back pay bonus of between $2,000 and $9,000 each.
On the flip side, the Buffalo School District received: BTF Members agreed to pay a flat dollar amount towards their health insurance; Teachers also agreed to a longer school day, working 25 minutes longer, which brought the school day to 7 hours and 15 minutes - which is actually 15 minutes shorter than what the District initially asked for; A two-day increase in the school year to 188 days; and Elimination of the controversial Cosmetic Surgery Rider, which Buffalo School District Officials said at the time would save the district about $5 million.
The new agreement brought Buffalo Public School Teachers closer to par with those Teachers employed in Buffalo’s Suburbs, Rumore said.
Unionized Buffalo Teachers also received a one-time bonus, ranging between $2,000 and $9,000, which served as back pay for the 12 years that BTF Members worked without a contact.
In addition, the BTF was successful in maintaining the rules that school assignments be based on seniority after the District sought to eliminate the preference.
Buffalo Public School Teachers had mobilized to get the District to act on a new contract by first working hard to elect new and Teacher-supportive Board Members in elections that were held in 2016, and then by embarking on a major public campaign to educate parents, students and the community - which included a late September rally held outside Buffalo’s City Hall where 5,000 gathered to listen to a host of speakers.