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Bargaining Progress on Pause

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MEDFORD, Ore. — Wednesday and Thursday’s back-to-back bargaining sessions pointed to progress between the Medford School District and the Medford Education Association (MEA). But just before 6 p.m. negotiations came to a halt and both sides agreed it ended on a sour note. “This has been an excruciatingly difficult week for our community,” said Dr. Phil Long. “It has been an intense two days,” said Cheryl Lashley.

After more than 20 hours of negotiations in two days, the progress was put on pause.

Thursday’s conflict seemed to surround a set of numbers, Long presented at a press conference. He said the District made a move in its proposal worth more than $4 million in value, on an early retirement benefit article. He claims the MEA only made a move in its counter-proposal worth some $60,000. Lashley said those numbers are inaccurate to the union’s counter-proposal Thursday.

“That will not get a contract solved that mortgage’s our kids’ future I don’t know what else to tell the community we can’t get this resolved unless we have both parties coming to deal to get a contract,” Long said.

“I think I’ve said this before, we’re not going to bargain in the media. Because the numbers unless I sit down with both proposal’s it’s really hard to do that and our members have stood and they’ve been strong about the fact that we are not … they cannot continue to lose money and have make less money one year than they have in the prior year,” said Lashley.

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  1. Sara says:

    Once again. Phil Long is trying to spin it to be about the money. The teachers I know would certainly like to not be losing ground each year as they have for the last decade, but the real sticking point here is working conditions. Among other things they don’t want to lose prep time, which is what would happen with the district’s proposal.

  2. Bob says:

    Sara,
    The claims that this isn’t about the money for MEA is absurd. In the past MEA has proclaimed the biggest issue is teacher compensation. Teacher prep time is an easy fix.

    1. Cat says:

      Apparently, prep time is not an easy fix, because the night before the teachers went out on strike they offered the District a one-year proposal that agreed with the District’s financial offer. They simply insisted that the language around working conditions (prep time falls into that category) remain the way the teachers wanted it. The District refused, thereby forcing the strike. This is only one of several examples where the teachers were willing to do what it took to settle the contract and avoid a strike and yet the District stonewalled. The most recent exchange, yesterday, involved a completely sustainable proposal from the teachers, but the District refused. Why? Because they want to hold the teachers hostage over a third year that they want in the contract, but which they state they cannot afford. The teachers want to go with the two-year contract, because this allows us all (District and Teachers) to wait and see what the funding is from the state, before they make any financial commitments.

  3. june says:

    no business could support the salary and benefits these people are demanding. most people in this area have given up benefits, and had pay and hours cut to keep their jobs. Oregons schools used to be in the top 5 in the nation, now they are near the bottom . they are looking like greedy bullys

    1. Cat says:

      The truth is that the teachers are not “demanding” anything. They are asking to be compensated for the time they work. That’s a reasonable request. Who wants to work for free? They are fighting to maintain what amounts to about 23 seconds a day per child to devote to planning lessons or correcting work or working with parents/kids. They are asking to not have their pay cut again after a decade of significant losses to their take home pay. They are asking to have a voice in the decisions that impact their ability to do their jobs. They are fighting for minimal protected time to do their jobs. These are not unreasonable or greedy requests. If you worked at Subway, you would not come in on your own time and cut up the lettuce and tomatoes for the sandwiches you were expected to make every day.

  4. Nora says:

    Of course it is about money! I don’t know all the details of each side…but it all boils down to money and the teachers being very unreasonable. Look at the demographics of this region. Again, I don’t know the numbers, but there are a lot of seniors here, on fixed incomes, and low income people, struggling to pay rent or make house payments. More money for the teachers is going to mean more taxes. Maybe not today, but tomorrow. The people that pay these teachers are already struggling to put food on the table. Just look at the number of children on free or reduced lunch programs. That should tell them the people can’t afford this. Do our seniors, on fixed incomes, get this kind of a raise? Oh…..and who pays for their health insurance……hello…..they pay for their own. Yes, most have Medicare….but that doesn’t include what they have to fork over for their supplemental policies or for medications. If our Social Security recipients get a 1% raise each year they are tickled pink. Of course….Medicare takes it back to cover their increase in cost.

    Our country is in the middle of a huge financial crisis. The latest recession is far from over, the dollar is no longer the standard for the rest of the world to look up to. More countries are dealing in other, more stable currencies. Folks, we, as a nation are headed downwards. But it didn’t all start in Washington. Problems start small, like the strike we are now having here in Medford. Everyone wants more money, more benefits, less work time, more assurances they will get another big raise in the next year. Well, those days are over. We have big moneyed ourselves to death and there is no way the Medford School District can either afford these luxuries nor should they even consider trying to. The people of Medford don’t have the funds in their own pockets to pay more taxes. Our young folks and seniors are struggling, as well as what used to be the middle class. Who else in our area gets these kinds of raises, medical benefits, and retirement benefits?

    Teachers, it is time to wake up and smell the roses. You aren’t any better than the rest of us. Yes, you teach. I have been there. It is a tough job, but not always. Parents can be difficult, students can be difficult, but this is life. Other people face the same challenges in their jobs and do not have nor demand the increases you are asking for. Most are just happy to have a job at all during these times.

    If it were up to me…….give the teachers a deadline, either agree to a reasonable 3 yr. contract, or find another job. Put out the word that Medford School District is hiring. There are lots of teachers that are in need of a job, lots from other states that would come here in a heartbeat, get their Oregon certification, and happily go to work with all the current benefits and wages the current teachers are griping about. If the district gives the teachers what they want, then yes, the district will be broke, and then where will everyone be? Can’t pay the teachers, can’t pay the benefits, and the students certainly won’t be in school.

    Anyone that can afford to do differently should consider a few options for the long term benefit of their children. Consider an alternative to public school. Check out the private schools, see if you can get reduced rates by volunteering. Consider moving to one of the outlying districts, or enrolling your children and carpooling to another district. Home schooling is also a very viable option and incorporated with online classes your children can end up with as good of an education as they are going to receive from disgruntled teachers. Pool your resources in your neighborhood and circle of friends and teach the children yourselves. If sports are that important to you….or your child, then put them in a more stable district. But….remember, public education was not founded for sports. It was founded so our nation could be literate at a time when over half the population could not even read. Lets get back to the basics and teach our children the values and the things that are really what is important.

    1. Cat says:

      The 3-year contract that the district is offering is unreasonable. They claim they can’t afford it, yet they insist that the teachers accept it. The teacher’s have offered a sustainable two-year agreement that saves the district money, and the district won’t accept it. The teachers’ rationale is that since we don’t know what the funding will be in that third year, it hardly makes sense to make any financial commitments regarding that year. Teachers’ are reasonably requesting to wait until they know what the actual funding will be.

  5. Dennis says:

    I don’t think it is right for the public not to know what the MEA and the district are negotiating. We all pay the salaries of the district employees and teachers through our taxes. We have the right to know what they are trying to settle on for their compensation packages. This shouldn’t be a secret to the public. There are many good teachers out their. They need to get back to work as the students are the ones that are losing in this process.

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