Monday, November 19, 2007

The Rest of the FWCS-Teamsters Negotiation Story

Friday's JG had a one-sided story describing the current feud between Fort Wayne Community Schools and the Teamsters which represent the bus drivers. Here's a brief recap:
Teamsters Local 414, the union that represents about 220 bus drivers, sued Wendy Robinson in her capacity as FWCS superintendent in Allen Superior Court on Nov. 7.

The bus drivers’ contract expired in December 2005, and negotiations have stalled over switching the health insurance package to one the Teamsters prefer.

Union representatives say their insurance would save the district and the drivers money and offer better coverage, but district officials disagree.

The two sides tentatively agreed to a contract this spring, but Robinson said the drivers changed some of the language afterward and ratified it without conferring with school officials. The Teamsters believe the contract is virtually the same and that Robinson entered into an oral agreement and should honor it by taking the contract to the FWCS board for its approval.

The story doesn't provide enough details to give the reader a real understanding of what the issues are. Therefore, I contacted FWCS board member Jon Olinger for more information and I'll attempt to summarize his statement with my own commentary:
  1. The board allows the administration to handle these negotiations because most of the members have no experience in contract negotiation and because it's not the board's job to get involved in the operational management of the district.

  2. One of the major sticking points of the contract was that the Teamsters wanted a closed shop which would mean every driver would be forced to be a union member. Let me just say that this is wrong - I believe workers should have the right to collectively bargain as well as the right NOT to collectively bargain.

  3. The second issue, which the JG story did cover, is that the Teamsters want to remove their drivers from the FWCS insurance and put them on the Teamsters insurance. There has been debate over whether or not this will provide a cost savings or not

  4. Now comes the most important part, in May Superintendent Wendy Robinson made a tentative agreement with the Teamsters that would allow them to move the employees to their own insurance if they dropped the demand for the closed shop. After this agreement Robinson simply changed her mind and tried to say there was no tentative agreement in the first place. However memos from Robinson started appearing that referenced a tentative agreement

  5. Despite these issues the Teamsters went forward and voted on the contract and are no longer willing to negotiate because they felt they already had an agreement in place.

I think it's clear that the administration has not bargained in good faith. Unfortunately the board (minus Olinger) has become a rubberstamp for Robinson and her administration and there's no way they would vote to bring the contract before the board until she says so. This entire fiasco sounds like it could've been avoided - much like the facilities petition drive...


NoKeltyKoolAid said...

Good points, especially regarding 'Wendy's board'. That's what she fought to get. You might remember the election when she fought with teachers union money to get Kurt Walborn off the board? I'm sorry to say the same thing is going to happen with Jon. Hopefully since the blue drive people are a little wiser and will vote some dead weight off the board. Steve and Carol have to go for anything viable to happen on this board.

Jeff Pruitt said...

I think Carona is toast and I hope somebody steps up to run against Coen.

I also think Jon is safe and I don't think he'll even have a challenger if he decides to run again...