It’s estimated that about 40% of Snoqualmie Valley School District (SVSD) union employees are working with expired contracts. The district is hopeful that can change when negotiations with classified workers and secretaries unions resume this week.
In November, after a mediator was brought in to help with bargaining, the Public School Employees (PSE) union that represents about 200 SVSD classified employees, including bus drivers, custodians, lunchroom staff, para educators and instructional assistants, rejected the district’s 4-year contract offer.
According to Carolyn Malcolm, SVSD Public Information Coordinator, the district negotiators did reach an agreement with the PSE bargaining team, but union members did not ratify the contract.
In a tight vote, 53% of PSE union members said the contract was not good enough. That offer did include a (roughly) 2% raise per year, but according to some union members, the sticking point was the ever-complicated health care carve out. One member said they want the district to contribute the same carve out as guaranteed in the latest teachers’ union contract.
Tina Longwell and Karen Seiser, who represent 36 members of the Snoqualmie Valley Administrative Secretaries Association (SVASA) union, both addressed the school board at its January 9th meeting.
Longwell, who resigned this month, gave an impassioned speech about her reasons for leaving the job and students she loves, saying with a family to support, she just can’t afford to work for the district any longer.
Seiser candidly addressed the board, explaining this was the second bargain she’s been involved with, but that the current negotiation “has been awful.” Seiser described it as “insulting, degrading.”
Seiser ended on a more positive note, though, saying she hoped when bargaining resumed on January 22nd, that the district would present union members with a “respectful offer.”
Last fall, the secretaries union also requested a mediator to help with contract negotiations.
Carolyn Malcolm explained the addition of that mediator has slowed the bargaining process with both unions. She stated via email, “Throughout this process, the district team has remained available to negotiate at any time, for as long as it takes. Unfortunately, with the addition of a mediator, it has been difficult to find times that work for all parties.”
The district is currently in the process of budget planning for the 2014-15 school year. After a budget update to the school board on January 9th, Board President Geoff Doy spoke to the importance of finishing contract negotiations with all unions in order to finalize next year’s budget.