I wanted to clarify my vote on the Albuquerque Teacher Federation Union contract. The item on the agenda was “consideration of continuation or termination of the existing negotiated agreement.” The vote was to have followed an executive session where the board would have heard the issues involved in the collective bargaining process and given direction to management on how to proceed.
In this executive session, I was prepared to encourage management to delete the transfer of teachers issue and allow the agreement to be approved with pay raises. The board voted not to go into executive session and therefore left the management team without a direction.
The motion on the floor was to “continue the existing negotiated agreement.” The existing negotiated agreement does not provide for pay raises for teachers. I wanted to ensure that pay raises were part of the new agreement. By voting to continue with the existing agreement, and by not giving management direction for further negotiations, the new contract could be delayed for several weeks. This would delay the pay raise for teachers, which I feel is an unfair financial burden for them at the beginning of the school year.
If the board had tabled the issue – as advocated by our own attorney – and had the board given the management team a clear direction in executive session before the meeting, I believe teacher raises would have been secured and the issues in negotiation resolved.
The union, in an email sent July 18 to its members, has characterized my vote as not honoring the collective bargaining rights of employees. It stated that the vote means that the union will go back to the bargaining table on Monday. That was not the motion on the floor. The motion on the floor was, “to continue with the existing agreement.” My vote was to table the vote, allowing time to complete the process.
Indeed, the board did not give a clear direction to management on how it should proceed. Under the Open Meeting Act, and in respect for the negotiating process, the board in executive session should have given clear direction to the management bargaining team on how it should proceed. The management team was left to guess the will of the board, and the negotiating process has been jeopardized.
I made it clear in my remarks that I will never vote to terminate a union contract. I have supported and will continue to advocate for the integrity of negotiation process.