Oregon Education Association Shows Us How to Circumvent Seniority
posted at 4:45 pm on May 21, 2012 by Mike Antonucci
The Oregon Education Association has not been able to reach a new collective bargaining agreement with its own staff and the situation is reaching critical mass.
The staff went on a three-week strike in 2008, but the economic situation is much worse this time around. OEA projects a $2.6 million deficit for the next school year (more than 10 percent in the red) and plans significant cuts to close it. The union’s representative assembly also approved a change to the dues formula that will lead to an increase next year.
The budget reductions include a cut to contributions to the staff pension fund and the closing of a single UniServ council office. But it is the staff layoffs, and how they were arrived at, that has already led to a great deal of friction.
Management sent layoff notices to seven of the 42 professional staffers and 13 of the 40 associate staffers, for a combined layoff of almost 25 percent. As you might imagine, the staff contracts set seniority as the top criterion for layoffs, with the last-in to be the first-out. But OEA management is trying to throw a curveball past its own employees.
Instead of laying off in reverse order of hiring, the union is laying off in reverse order of positions being created. This has resulted in two employees with more than 30 years of experience receiving pink slips.
That’s a hell of a maneuver, and one easily replicated by school districts if any had the sand to try it. Can’t lay off your most senior employees? Merely appoint them to head the new Teacher Evaluation Center, or some such dodge. Pitch it as a promotion. Then lay them off because they hold the most recently created positions. It’s either devilishly clever or delusional. In what reality will the staff union stand for that?
Since OEA’s projections are based on removing high-end employees, it might also mean additional layoffs or spending cuts will become necessary when the staff union puts the kibosh on the scheme.
Equally large numbers of layoff notices have been issued at other NEA state affiliates, but to my knowledge they were all issued in compliance with the staff contract.
OEA’s internal labor strife runs concurrently with a series of teacher strikes and near-strikes over the last month. More than 500 members of the Reynolds Education Association are on the picket line today.