Modesto teachers contract talk delayed as rumors swirl

05/08/2014 8:48 PM

05/08/2014 8:48 PM

Modesto teachers may have to wait a little longer for a contract after the district postponed a negotiating session set for Thursday to allow the Modesto Teachers Association to sort out leadership issues.

“There was a negotiation session scheduled for Thursday afternoon that was postponed,” said Craig Rydquist, associate superintendent of human resources for Modesto City Schools.

“Given the events of this week, a cooling off period to allow some clarity to occur was needed prior to the district fulfilling its obligation to continue to meet with the association. They have the right to determine who will be negotiating on their behalf and once that is determined, the district team will be prepared to continue to negotiate,” Rydquist said by email Thursday evening.

The clarity he referred to is the status of MTA governance. The union’s state affiliate, the California Teachers Association, put the local chapter under a trusteeship Monday, but efforts to enforce the action by taking over the MTA office and bank accounts were not successful. Legal action is anticipated in the matter.

The MTA contract is being fully renegotiated for 2014-15 after three years of partial discussions and pay cuts. The opening bids from both sides included raises.

The Modesto Teachers Association held a vote Tuesday seeking to disaffiliate from the state organization, but the measure was soundly defeated. Some 58 percent of members cast ballots opting to stay with the statewide group.

Rumors circulated Thursday, sparked by a widely distributed email saying months-long negotiations were “set to finish” Thursday. “If the CTA trusteeship takes over, negotiations will be starting from scratch,” said the note, sent through district email to all teachers. It goes on to say that the state organization was “working on a court order to fire your MTA board and office staff” and replace them all with California Teachers Association staff.

A state union email to MTA supporters denied the charge. “The office staff has not been fired. We do not know where that rumor is coming from. We do not know what is happening inside the MTA office,” Jim Schlotz of the California Teachers Association wrote. CTA trustees have set a membership meeting for May 15, the email said.

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