Barring a last-minute resolution to the current impasse over the proposed contract, Fresno teachers are scheduled to take a strike authorization vote starting at 5:30 p.m. today in the Paul Paul Theatre at the Fresno Fairgrounds.
But given the missteps and poor behaviors on both sides cited by a state-appointed mediator, the lack of a contract at this point may not be altogether surprising.
The Public Employment Relations Board fact-finder report released Monday by Fresno Unified School District includes numerous pointed criticisms aimed at both the district and the Fresno Teachers Association. The union represents nearly 4,200 teachers, many of whom are expected to cast ballots tonight.
Both sides engaged in disrespectful and untrustworthy behavior during the September fact-finder hearing, the report said.
In addition, prior to the September hearing the two sides had engaged in dozens of sessions. But given the huge number of unresolved issues submitted to the fact-finder panel, “it was as if the parties had not bargained in the year that they met over 30 times,” the report said.
The fact-finder panel was commissioned by PERB after the two sides declared their talks were at an impasse in June. Its head was Donald Raczka, identified as an “impartial chairperson.” He was joined by John Gray of School Services of California, the “employer” panel member, and Mitch Olson of the California Teachers Association, the “union” panel member. The district and union had agreed on Raczka’s selection as the chair.
Interest-Based Bargaining a Flop?
The report, authored by Raczka, noted that the number of open items that were as yet unsettled were “astounding to read and far too numerous to recite in this document.”
The district and union had attempted to use interest-based bargaining for the new three-year pact, but both apparently lacked sufficient training in how to conduct such bargaining, which is successful by sharply focusing on single items instead of long lists of issues, the report said.
The untrustworthy behaviors noted by the report included the district’s failure to maintain confidentiality of an informal suggested settlement that was leaked to GV Wire.
The report also noted that FTA President Manuel Bonilla and Executive Director Louis Jamerson “chose to leave the hearing after their presentation, even though they were an essential part of the Association bargaining team.”
Both sides will need to change their behaviors if they plan to attempt interest-based bargaining in the future, the report said:
“In his short time with the parties, the Chair witnessed behaviors that were antithetical to establishing trust, the needed foundation of an Interest Based System. … It is no surprise that Interest Based Bargaining was unsuccessful with disrespectful behaviors such as these two examples. Clearly the parties, though expressing a desire to return to an Interest Based approach, have much to learn. Acting in a trustworthy manner is paramount to the success of this style of bargaining.”
FUSD and FTA officials did not respond to a request for comment about the fact-finder’s criticisms about their negotiations.