A factfinding report regarding an impasse between the Marysville Joint Unified School District and Marysville Unified Teachers Association was recently released.

According to the report, if after using the collective bargaining process the parties are unable to reach an agreement from those negotiations, one or both can ask the Public Employment Relations Board to determine an impasse. If determined, a mediator from the State Mediation and Conciliation Service is assigned to assist the parties in reaching a mutual agreement.

If after several meetings and negotiation sessions the mediator is unsuccessful in ending the impasse, the mediator refers the parties to the next step of the process – called factfinding.

Factfinding consists of a three-member panel that hears arguments and then makes nonbinding recommendations for settling the dispute.

MJUSD and MUTA began negotiating on the impacts and effects of the district’s Phase 2 (blended learning) in June 2020 and in December, PERB determined the parties were at an impasse and a mediator was appointed.

In January, after two sessions, the mediator referred them to factfinding – a hearing took place virtually on Feb. 25 and 26.

The district identified 21 issues for the panel to consider and the association identified 20 issues.

“Both sides worked hard and some of the issues before the panel were set aside in good faith to reach agreement,” it was stated in the report. “The collective efforts successfully concluded in a tentative agreement, signed by both parties on February 26, 2021. This agreement represented a mutual understanding and acceptance of the issues to be included in the final memorandum of understanding.”

An additional mediation session took place on March 25. The district and association reached an agreement on the text of the drafted MOU except for the final section.

“On March 22, the chair was surprised and disappointed to hear that the parties were having difficulty finalizing the language of the memorandum of understanding,” it was stated in the report. “The backbone of this MOU, the tentative agreement, was already signed and agreed upon.”

According to the report, the chair notes that section of the MOU still outstanding includes items in section 8, “Agreement and Term,” of the MOU:

– 8a. All matters appropriately before the factfinding panel convened on Feb. 25 through 26 are resolved.

– 8b. This MOU resolves all currently known impacts and effects regarding Phase 2 (blended learning).

– 8c. The unfair labor practice charge and all grievances currently pending by MUTA are to be dismissed with prejudice pursuant to the terms of the tentative agreement signed by the parties on Feb. 26.

– 8d. Any components of the distance learning MOU and the health and safety MOU, previously signed by the district and association in August and October 2020, are incorporated by reference herein to the extent they remain effective under these terms and are not inconsistent with this MOU.

– 8e. This MOU shall expire on June 30, 2021, unless mutually extended by both parties.

The chair found the disagreement over this section “puzzling.” Both sides had agreed on the termination date of the MOU, according to the report. But the mediation ended with the parties unable to resolve their differences regarding the district’s delivery of the transitional-kindergarten and kindergarten revised schedules indicating an 8:30 a.m. start time, the elementary bell schedules indicating duty-free 10 minute breaks and the notice for in-person delivery for secondary schools.

“The association insists that (they) have not yet received the complete information and the district insists that it has made it available,” it was stated in the report. “The chair believes that this information should have been beyond question in the almost four weeks since signing the tentative agreement and March 25, 2021. A report, complete and with the same format for each school, should have been prepared and delivered to the association. ‘Delivered’ is far different from ‘made available.’ The communication between the parties is extremely wanting.”

An additional complication, according to the report, was the district changing the anticipated opening date of secondary schools from April 13 to March 31.

The district said the decision was based on revised reopening guidance from the state and the association said this violates a verbal agreement made by the district administration and they are “angry” about not being notified in a timely matter, according to the report. The district said it did communicate this “clearly and in a timely manner.”

The chair said in the report that it was a “collective failure of both parties” to not be able to reach an agreement for “such a short period of time.”

According to the report, both sides made concessions but the majority of the text of the draft MOU has consensus approval.

The chair issued six recommendations:

–The entirety of the text of the draft MOU be adopted, except the portion given as number 8 under the heading “general.”

–Number 8a be accepted as written.

–Number 8b be accepted as written.

–Number 8e be accepted as written.

–Number 8d be dropped.

–Number 8c be dropped.

According to the report, the parties couldn’t agree that the conditions for dropping the unfair labor practice and grievances had been met.

“The chair hopes the association would consider, for the sole purpose of reaching agreement, dropping those grievances,” it was stated in the report. “And he strongly urges the district to set aside its insistence that the association withdraw the unfair labor practice charge. That UPC is more about process than resolution and, in any case, is clearly outside the chair’s authority. PERB is the appropriate authority for dealing with the unfair labor practice charges. Let the process work independently of this agreement.”

The full report can be found at https://bit.ly/3slJADc.

 

MJUSD’s response

Gary Cena, MJUSD superintendent, said in an email sent to MJUSD stakeholders that in its report, the factfinding panel upheld the district’s right to set direction regarding an instructional delivery model, upheld the district’s reference to public health guidance as the standard for health and safety issues and protocols, and more.

One of the issues the district conceded was acknowledging 20 minutes of additional prep for teachers each day, Tuesday through Friday.

Cena said in the email that MUTA’s unfair labor practice charge against the MJUSD Board of Trustees is that the board, over MUTA’s objection, twice voted to reopen schools for blended in-person instruction without first completing negotiations on impacts and effects.

“MJUSD contends the fundamental function of the board is to return students to the classroom and provide in-person instruction in accordance with public health and safety guidance. The district believes it has bargained in good faith and has moved forward as a business necessity fundamental to the board’s function,” Cena said in the email. “...We are gratified we are increasing in-person instruction for all students and doing it in a deliberative but active way consistent with the law and health and safety protocols. Continuing to move in this direction is the highest priority of our board and community. To their credit, MUTA leadership has expressed that they support the opening of schools, and the district is glad that they are sharing their questions and concerns. We are listening to them and considering them. We understand they disagree in some respects to the district’s approach implementing the return to in-person instruction. Thus, the district continues its negotiations with MUTA leadership, with close attention and concern for the well-being of our employees and their needs.”

 

MUTA’s response

Angela Stegall, MUTA president, said since the factfinding report was released, the union has sent proposals to the district that reflect the recommendations but an agreement has not yet been reached.

“MUTA is eager, willing and able to sign an MOU that is in alignment with recommendations,” Stegall said.

She said they feel like they have had “no input” as changes have been made.

“We want to make sure people understand the teachers want kids in the classroom,” Stegall said. “...But we also need and want to be part of the discussion as to how that happens and what that looks like, we want input.”

She said MUTA’s unfair labor practice charge stems from “the district’s failure to bargain in good faith.”

She said they are continuing to bargain with the district but “it’s difficult.”

Stegall said one of the things that could happen is teachers participating in “job and/or work actions.”

In a non-pandemic era, she said, this could mean doing a “work to contract” but with the pandemic, they may take out specific items and say “we’re going to work to contract on this item.”

“Teachers do a whole lot that is above and beyond,” Stegall said.

She said they could also do demonstrations, such as holding signs, before board meetings.

However, she said the union is not heading toward a strike.

“There is no way this union would strike with eight weeks (to go) and during a pandemic,” Stegall said. “...Our students have been through enough, our teachers have been through enough, our community has been through enough. That’s why the teachers don’t want to go through the whole-scale work to contract … we would be hurting the people that need to be hurt the least.”

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