Stopping the bully


An amazing thing is happening throughout Sweetwater. Teachers have finally decided that enough is enough! My sentiments from last week remain: Brand has awakened a sleeping giant and filled us with a terrible resolve!

He should understand why we are so angry! The facts are here in black and white. We had a contractual agreement that stipulated the district would pay 68% of the family rate for healthcare costs. This was negotiated and agreed upon by both SEA and the district in 2012 negotiations, and set to go in effect for 2014. For months, the district has met with SEA’s Benefits Committee and used numbers based on the 68%. SEA released these district provided numbers to unit members as we head into open enrollment so that employees could make the best financial and healthcare decisions possible.

Amazingly, over fall break, SEA learned of a proposal to the district from its own insurance consulting firm, BB & T. Under this plan, the overage saved from single payer plans could be redistributed to two-party and families, driving down the cost of healthcare for 2/3rds of our membership dramatically. In fact, under this plan, were we to opt for Kaiser 30/30, every single unit member could have a monthly insurance premium of $0. Yes, $0!

So what the heck happened? Negotiations began and Ed Brand decided to play dirty. Brand decided to unilaterally impose a mythological super composite rate that exists only in some fantasyland of district accounting. Under the imposed rates, the district contribution decreases drastically, and the costs for families nearly doubles! Way to stick it to your Sweetwater family, Dr. Brand!

The financial impact of the district’s plan will cause immense hardship to scores of us district-wide. But the implications are greater than just monetary. If Brand is able to pick and choose which contractual language the district will follow, then there is nothing stopping him from imposing anything he wants on our students and us. Will he stop at employee healthcare? Doubtful. What will be next? Class size? Salaries?  Prep time? Duty day? It would be open season on anything and everything in our contract.

We have two options. We can accept this unethical, immoral, and inhumane imposition, or we can fight like hell to prevent it from happening. It is clear to me already, that we have chosen the latter. To that end, many of us have already begun work actions aimed at displaying our unity and resolve. We are wearing buttons and holding solidarity demonstrations. Approximately 12 of our 25 comprehensive sites have begun working to the rule. At least a half a dozen have indicated they are moving in that direction.

We acknowledge that working to the rule is difficult for teachers. I don’t know a single one of us who feels comfortable turning a student away from tutoring, or refusing to host an after-school club. We all care about our WASC committees, getting grades completed quickly, and planning fabulous lessons. Nevertheless, working to the rule is an extremely effective tactic that sends a clear message to Dr. Brand. We are a vital part of the Sweetwater family, and demand to be treated fairly and compassionately!

As your site moves towards working to the rule, please consider these guidelines. Of course, your site may need to modify guidelines (for example, alternative sites aren’t required to supervise sporting events twice a year, etc.). The general rule is that you perform only your contractual duties, so you might need to read your contract. If you haven’t bookmarked a copy of the contract, here is the link.

My grandma used to tell me that when someone shows you who they are, you better believe them. This isn’t the first time Ed Brand has shown that he is conniving, manipulative, aggressive, and power-hungry bully who cares nothing for the well being of his “Sweetwater family.” As teachers, we all know that to stop a bully, you have to confront him.

Join us as we stand together and confront the bully who is determined to hurt our friends and their families, and disregard our contract. Be at the Board meeting on 10/21, from 4:30-6:30. Bring your family. Bring your friends. Bring your voice. Be heard!

In Solidarity,

Helen Farias

SEA Organizing Chair

SEA Board of Directors

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