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Utah District Bucks Union
posted by: Alix | July 19, 2011, 06:13 PM   

Utah's Ogden School District is a small district just north of Salt Lake City. A charming community with less than 1,000 teachers, Ogden is making news for its school board's decision to bypass local union negotiations in favor of sending individual contracts to teachers for the upcoming school year. While the move has obviously infuriated the local union, the move has been described as not only a trend in teacher negotiations, but the future of how policymakers and school districts will communicate with teachers, especially in areas with hostile and uncompromising unions.

States from coast to coast have been in similar situations to the Ogden district. In Ohio, policymakers seeking to implement a state-wide performance pay measure have pushed the state union out of negotiations and are instead looking for input from individual teachers. Similarly, in Wisconsin, after failing to make necessary financial concessions, lawmakers passed a broad law that among other provisions removed the union's monopoly on bargaining and gave teachers the right to opt-out all together.

In one of the most hostile union-administration relationship environments in the nation, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's schools chief snubbed an invitation to a state union conference after union staffers sent emails soliciting members to pray for the death of the governor. The fact of the matter is no legislature or local school board in this country wants to work with a union that is incapable of a positive dialogue and reasonable compromise, especially in dire financial times.

Ogden is no exception to the nationwide shift toward circumventing teacher unions. Years ago, the district and teacher's union couldn't come to a collective bargaining agreement for the 2010-11 school year, so teachers went to work without a contract while the negotiations continued. After multiple mediation processes, negotiations dissolved and the board decided to move forward without the union in drafting the current contract for teachers. Clearly, after two years of trying to negotiate with the local union, the Ogden school system had no choice but to take matters into their own hands.

The incompetence of the local union has instilled a panic in the district. Understandably, the unfamiliar process of receiving an unexpected individual contract from the district has raised questions and concerns from educators. While local teachers may be fearful of the impact on individual teacher jobs, educators should not only recognize the now commonplace push toward individual contracts, but that bucking teacher unions is the only recourse for districts who, at the end of the day, need teachers in the classroom.

Teachers in Ogden and across the country in communities where their unions are keeping their views from the negotiating table should consider non-union options like AAE. When unions show they are incapable of constructive relationships with districts, their very existence should be called into question. In the end, it's the teachers who suffer.

Do you think the events in Ogden will spread to other districts?
Comment below.

Comments (1)Add Comment
written by John Montague - Ogden, UT, July 26, 2011

First, this is the most accurate account of what happened that has been written. Thanks for the comprhensive overview.
I believe that it is very possible that the events here in Ogden will spread. With the coverage in the press, it is clear that many people are watching to see how this turns out. Whether or not it catches on & spreads will depend on the results that are produced as a result of the process. If the focus can stay firmly on working together to maximize the educational & learning opportunities of the district's students, then I am sure it will become a model for others to follow. Folks on all sides of the issue all claim that they are acting in the students' best interest. Now is the time for all of them to quit bickering & actually behave as if the student as the priority. All of the factions will soon show their true colors.

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