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Bargaining, May 4, 2022

The HEA/HSD Bargaining team met on Wednesday, May 4. Terry Beaver and Joanne Didriksen were absent. The notes from the meeting are below. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions.

Team: Rex Weltz, Jane Shawn, Jannelle Mickelson, Josh McKay, Brett Zanto, Dave Thennis, Wynn Randall, Terry Beaver (ABS), Anna Alger, Adam Clinch, Kelly Elder, Bob Korizek, Erika McMillin, Paul Phillips, Jonna Schwartz, Jake Warner, Joanne Didriksen (ABS), Jennifer McKee (NOT ATTENDING)

(Erika online to start meeting)

Recap: Talked about more options last time. We all understand the story and the interests and concerns. Important that we try to move this forward. Are there any changes to budget since we met last time?

The levies passed but the district is unsure about high school due to the number of provisional ballots outstanding.

Other options--what does the district have and is willing to spend? That’s been put out a couple of times but we are unsure where the district is. Is there something we can do to work together to get to an end point?

Option: for this school year (21-22), do a .5% retention stipend, as backpay for this school year. Work language out for those who work a pro-rated contract. 1% on the base for next school year (’22-’23) ($400-$830 range). Considering that some got 0% and some got 18%-20% raise, another .5% applied to the base to those frozen on PCAP steps 24 ($385.26 added)-25 ($388.79).

● District has call in to TRS re: whether stipend/retention pay will count for TRS.

● Roughly 54 people would benefit from the .5% increase to PCAP steps 24 and 25.

● Most AA districts are around .5%-2% increases with budgetary demands.

● We know we have 2.57% for inflationary increase, but we don’t know what’s coming next year.

● ANB is expected to be stable for next school year.

● After next year, we won’t have a PCAP Step 25 (grandfathered)

● AAs that negotiated prior to inflationary increases include the following: Kalispell and Butte are at 2%, Great Falls, Bozeman, Belgrade, and Billings are at 1.5% for next year. These schools negotiated last spring or prior to that. This information hasn’t been confirmed in CBAs but has been communicated to leadership in the district.

○ Important to understand that there’s no other district in the place we are with regard to our two pay scales.

○ Finances and money available still comes down to what the General Fund can support.

○ Question about the plan for PCAP: will it end with attrition or in another fashion? Is there an issue with sunsetting or is it something that just happens?

○ Benefit of blending pay scales together.

● Is there an equity issue with continuing to give different percentages to different groups rather than uniformly?

● Option within this option: apply an appropriate COLA to all steps and then add to the PCAP.

● Savings from the latest retirement incentive should yield $4.5 million in savings over the next five years.

○ What are the approximated figures/savings for each year--how do the savings breakdown?

This group is obligated to take to membership something that we think can pass. On a moral ground, we should not be taking back to membership something we cannot support.

Example: Teacher on Step 6 with a Master’s would get about $37 a month, plus $280 for the stipend.

Three big issues when we started: (1) transparency, (2) do something for the folks who got nothing, (3) COLA increase.

Bringing it back to whether it’s teachers’ responsibility to solve the deficit, the answer was NO. That does not seem to be the case now. In 12 of the last 13 years, the state of Montana has given its inflationary increase, and teachers in our district have not ever gotten that amount. We keep going from “we’ll get you next time,” to even “we’ll get you next time if we can.”

● True that we didn’t apply inflationary increase to the base, but salaries, by steps alone did increase.

○ When you are tracking standard of living, you have to look at the schedule; you can’t just track an increase from years 0-10 and call that an increase.

○ There’s a difference between a wage increase for gaining expertise and a wage increase to keep up with inflation and cost of living.

○ In theory, step advancement alone should pay for itself with savings from attrition.

● Teachers are upset with their bargaining team. The agreement with moving to Steps and Lanes is that it would provide for meaningful COLAs. The team was also told that another dollar would never be added to PCAP.

You’re so far apart that it might be better to go to mediation or back to traditional bargaining.

Many teachers have been part of this process for a number of years. The HEA bargaining team has regularly taken back to membership the ask to forgo real increases due to district financial needs. The last three years of bargaining were tremendously difficult. We were told that by going to steps and lanes that we would get COLAs. We still got nothing. When members talk about salaries, morale is low, teachers are overworked, and, frankly, feeling emotionally blackmailed with the rhetoric that “it’s for the kids.” A lot of district rhetoric feels like lip service. Because of sub shortages, we can’t take days, we can’t take time for ourselves; thus, money is one of the few things that makes teachers feel a little better. It’s disheartening and devaluing.

Not an easy place when looking at the budget compared to what teachers deserve. A lot of pieces to historical conversations that need to be addressed. It will take time from the institutional trauma that’s occurred. Where is the common ground between where the budget tells us we need to live. I have to find where we can live in this year’s negotiations and next year’s.

Things have to change if we are going to create a sustainable schedule with COLAs for the workforce. Current option from the district doesn’t reflect the changes that need to happen. The solution can’t be to let time degrade the pay scale.


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