This one's going to be short

I don’t have a lot to say about bargaining because I am not on the bargaining team, although if I were, I would probably have even less to say. The information at the closed session bargaining table is supposedly protected under the Brown Act, specifically California Code 54963 which states: “a) A person may not disclose confidential information that has been acquired by being present in a closed session authorized by Section 54956.7, 54956.8, 54956.86, 54956.87, 54956.9, 54957, 54957.6, 54957.8, or 54957.10 to a person not entitled to receive it, unless the legislative body authorizes disclosure of that confidential information.” So because of this, we outsiders know very little about what is actually happening. Here is what I do know:

APT did a straw poll at an all union meeting early in the 22-23 school year asking if the bargaining team should attempt to reopen the 22-23 contract in order to benefit from the additional $26 million dollars the district received in July of 2022 beyond what they were initially expecting. The consensus was almost a unanimous “Yes!” So throughout this year, APT bargaining has been attempting to reopen the previous contract before moving onto the 23-24 contract.

Word on the street is that management, on the other hand, was not willing to hear any arguments about why the previous contract should be reopened and instead were insisting that the bargaining should focus on the next contract, 23-24. APT would potentially have accepted this had management made an offer to show good faith in the process for the next year, but that never came. On the other hand, APT does not want to even talk numbers until all information is available, specifically the release of the COLA adjustments for the district, which should be made available in July 2023. Last year, APT did not wait for this number and we can see where that has left us (at the same time, management seemed all too happy to wrap up the 22-23 contract fast before this information was known). To put this in perspective, a little bit of discussion is required on the topic of bargaining in good faith.

Bargaining in Good Faith

The National Labor Relations Board has rules in place in regards to bargaining in good faith. So if a salary is offered, by either side, it sets a benchmark for the proceedings to come. Once management sets an offer, they can no longer go below that offer, because that would be in bad faith, so if management extends a generous olive branch and then later it is determined that they wouldn’t be able to afford it, they cannot take it back. Similarly, if APT starts the process, and then we find out in July that the district again gets a huge honey pot, we are stuck at our low offer. Both sides feel that the first person to speak is likely to lose.

Is that true? It certainly seems to be a common sentiment: “the first to offer will ultimately lose.” Over the last few years, this has certainly been the case for APT, we have always offered first, and always ultimately lost (in my opinion). (Remember that time we offered first and the counter was 0.27%.) If you try googling it, you get a lot of articles that point to a study from Harvard, in which all these headlines point to the idea that the traditional held belief, as I just presented, might not be the case. So a lot of articles are saying that maybe the first to offer ultimately does win out in the end. However, a closer read shows that there are certain situations in which this might be the case. In particular, it appears this is only the case when the offering party is privy to more information than the receiving party. While school budgets are public data, I would say for a certainty that PUSD management has more information in regards to the district budget than APT, well I certainly hope they do, or what else are they doing up there in that office all day?

So, PUSD doesn’t want to offer first because they are afraid this will bias the negotiations against them, and APT feels the same. Where does that leave us? It really circles back to an olive branch. APT appears to be done being the first to offer in the negotiating room, we have lost far too many times in a row to continue losing. We are losing so much, so often, that teachers in PUSD are bailing for other districts for higher salaries, and probably higher levels of respect.