Boston teachers’ union holds walk-in to protest stalled contract negotiations
City signs pricey police union deal while teachers’ contract talks drag
Jule Pattison-Gordon | 3/15/2017, 9:43 a.m.
Teachers mounted a walk-in protest at 115 Boston schools last Friday to draw attention to their stalled contract negotiations. The Boston Teachers Union’s bargaining with the city has snagged on several points around pay, teacher-to-student ratio for inclusionary classrooms and assignment for “excessed” teachers, according to BTU president Richard Stutman. A BTU press release also notes requests for paid parental leave for early-career teachers as well as smaller kindergarten class sizes.
Negotiations began in January 2016 to replace the teacher contract expiring in August of that year, and are still underway.
“We’ve been negotiating for 14 months, and we’ve met 32 times in negotiations, for over 200 hours, but we have had no success,” said Melanie Allen, a Boston Public Schools parent, teacher and BTU negotiating team member, in a statement.
Meanwhile, the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association’s negotiations have sailed through relatively briskly and bring significant increases, largely through bumps to non-salary pay and benefits. It will cost the city approximately $68 million over three years.
The Walsh administration’s 2018 fiscal year school budget includes about $20 million set aside for costs associated with collective bargaining.
The disparity in the teachers’ versus patrolmen’s negotiations points to what some say is a long-running divide in the groups’ bargaining abilities.
BPS has 10,255 employees, approximately 4,517 of whom are teachers, according to fiscal year 2017 data. The Boston Police Department employs 2,713 people, 2,144 of whom are police officers.
Seeking equal recognition
BTU president Richard Stutman noted that while another, predominately male union has settled negotiations, BTU is still fighting for a similar package. He avoided identifying the specific union.
“We’re seeking something comparable to what has already been offered to at least one union in the city,” Stutman told the Banner. “We’ve been offered a lot less than they’ve already settled for.”
He said does not contest the value of the other union’s work, but rather wants recognition that “our jobs are equally hard.”
According to Stutman, the lagging negotiations and lower offerings are a statement that city has low esteem for women, who comprise 76 percent of the teaching workforce. If paraprofessionals are included in the count, women comprise roughly 80 percent of the BTU, he said.
“We feel the reason for disparate treatment is that we have a predominately female working force and the union that was settled has a predominately male working force. We think our people are undervalued by the city,” Stutman said. “We’ve raised the same issues about disparate treatment because of gender before.”
A different toolset
The BTU is among 38 unions which have yet to settle their contracts, according to Sam Tyler, president of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau.
During a hearing on the police budget, many city councilors were quick to thank the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association for not resorting to binding arbitration. This tool, which is not available to the teachers’ union or other civilian unions, makes it easier to bring a final resolution to the deal-making and previously has resulted in high-cost BPPA contracts.