Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Shape of What's to Come?

From my local newspaper, Page 1 above the fold:

Teachers Reopen Contract, Vote to Reduce Raises

In a move heralded by [the Board of Ed president] as "unprecedented and historic," the teachers union voted to reopen its contract and take a reduction in its previously negotiated salary increases for the next two years.

The union negotiated in 2007 for minimum 3.25 percent and maximum 4.25 percent salary increases for the years 2010-11 and 2011-12. That contract was to expire June 30, 2012. But with Tuesday's [Feb 9] vote by the union, teachers reopened the contract and agreed on a scheduled salary growth decrease of 1 percentage point in 2010-11 and an added 1 percent in 2011-12. Their terms save the district $624,000 this year and a total of $1,286,000 next year: a total over the two years of $1,910,000. The memorandum of understanding extends the contract one extra year, giving the teachers a 2 percent salary increase for 2012-13 at no added cost to the district. The agreement also ensures no teacher layoffs.

The article continues as a love-festy, kumbaya-like, group hug between the district's administration and the union. Whether or not that's an accurate portrayal of what went on behind closed doors, who knows and, frankly, who cares? That said, I think one of the smartest ways forward is for both sides of the labor equation to acknowledge and accept the fact that they need each other and need to work together to manage what is an ongoing crisis at the state and local levels. Balance sheets -- federal, state, local and household -- are going to continue shrinking, and this type of cooperative spirit is likely going to be a necessary ingredient in helping the country manage through it. I applaud both sides for their willingness to negotiate in good faith and make the necessary concessions. Hopefully this spirit will prevail elsewhere and similar agreements might be struck; I think we'd all find the alternatives rather unsavory.

P.S. Far be it for me to proselytize, but get involved if you can -- attend local town board or school board meetings. Review budget proposals. Ask questions. Make suggestions. And, if you're so inclined, run for elected office.

P.P.S. This is deflationary.