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A Tale of Two Standards? Who Can Reject a Proposed Union Contract?

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…. So begins one of the most famous novels of the last 200 years: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. I’m too little to know what it’s all about. But the idea of making a clear and direct contrast just seemed to fit so well.

When it comes to teachers union leaders’ views, we may have a case of “binding contracts for thee, but not for me.” Double standards can be rather convenient, can’t they?

On the very same day, last Friday, two parallel stories appeared. First, from my favorite education reporter, Complete Colorado’s Sherrie Peif, about an arbitration hearing between the Thompson Board of Education and the Thompson Education Association:

One of the union’s primary arguments: That because the union voted to ratify the tentative agreements brought back to the Thompson Board of Education, the board was obligated to do the same.

Remember that? It was only a couple months ago that status quo forces teamed up to try to shove a contract through, one that addressed very few if any of the Board majority’s concerns. The result? The Board accepted the dare, voting down the contract on May 20.

By union logic, the school board merely exists as a rubber stamp to sign off on the union agenda. Mind you, the school board is an office recognized by the state constitution as having significant local “control of instruction.” Meanwhile, the union is a private entity that likes to bargain taxpayer privileges for itself, and doesn’t like those privileges exposed and called into question.

Which brings us to the second article. The Greeley Tribune‘s Tyler Silvy penned a piece under the headline “Teachers union cites equality in rejecting Greeley-Evans District 6 administration plan.”

Wait, you might be saying, let’s get this straight. Union leaders in Greeley — which is almost next door to Thompson — asserted the right to reject a deal offered by the school board on the classification of certain licensed educational positions? And their argument is rooted in concerns of equity?

That’s correct. Greeley Public Schools is having a hard time filling certain positions deemed important to serving students, and simply wanted to offer more money to fill those positions. No mas, replied the union. Fair enough. That’s their prerogative.

There are other prerogatives the Board retains (like making a distinction between a local union and an association), except union leaders might argue differently — as they did in Thompson’s case. If the Board and its district leadership make an urgent request of union leaders, they get to exercise their right to disagree. Yet if the union rolls over compliant district negotiators who ignore instructions, then they believe the elected Board must go along as well.


In related news, the Education Intelligence Agency reports that the Colorado Education Association, like most other teachers union affiliates, is on a membership decline, continuing a trend of the recent past. Sure, there are plenty of reasons for this trend. But the organization isn’t helping itself here.

An up-close-and-personal look at union logic might persuade more professional Colorado teachers to look more closely at their membership options.