From the Bargaining Table
The bargaining table is a unique space where SEA and SPS are able to have frank conversations and ultimately reach agreement on extremely complex and difficult issues. It is never easy but the fact that we successfully accomplish this work year in and year out shows it can be done.
The Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) is an agency in Washington State that regulates labor law for public sector unions. They are not an educational organization, nor a workers’ rights organization. PERC can be helpful in circumstances where, for example, the parties are arguing over a 3% or 5% annual raise and need to compromise. Once an agreement is reached, the language is clear and unambiguous, there is very little to further interpret and there is minimal complexity to implementation. That is not the case with reopening buildings for in-person instruction, which is complex and ever evolving.
Calling PERC indicates an unwillingness by the district to do the hard work and collaborate directly with SEA, which we find disappointing. In our opinion, calling in PERC at this stage seems more like a PR move rather than a good faith attempt to work with SEA, particularly when we have not even finished exchanging proposals.
It is also disrespectful to the work of our bargaining team. There are complex issues, and thoughtful language, to converse around at the table based on approaches being done across the country right now. Our team is led by two women of color who have been working with a committed, diverse team around the clock, nights and weekends, to develop language for an MOU that would provide for an equitable and safe return for school communities. We believe that with SPS being inclusive of more SPS leadership of color in conversations, we will live up to our strategic plan and safely ALL be able to do the work necessary to come back to school buildings.
Finally, bargaining the reopening of school buildings is about more than just reaching an agreement. It is about developing trust and a long-term working relationship, as reopening school buildings requires continuous collaboration to implement correctly, to quickly address any new or unforeseen circumstances or concerns, and to course correct when needed, none of which can be facilitated by PERC.
We remain willing and committed to bargain in good faith with the District. We are open to calling in PERC in the future, but do not want to slow down negotiations. We can make significant progress if the District is willing to come to the table in good faith.