Wednesday, August 31, 2011

District puts a "chill" on NFT rights

After being admonished for distributing union literature to parents at a school district event, the NFT once again files a legal challenge to the superintendent's authority

Not a day goes by that some frustrated parent or tax payer doesn’t blog a demand that administration does something to limit what many consider to be invasive tactics employed by the NFT. What they do not know is that administration does enforce district policies and practices on an ongoing basis, but their efforts are challenged regularly by union officials seeking to overturn whatever administration is trying to uphold.

Since July 2010, the NFT has filed 9 grievances and 5 unfair labor practices against Neshaminy, most recently in an appeal of Dr. Muenker’s order that the union refrain from disseminating their literature on district property during school-related events.

An unfair labor practice is filed with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board for alleged violation of the Public Employee Relations Act. A grievance is an appeal of an alleged contract violation, a past practice or a disciplinary action as governed by a collective bargaining agreement. It is filed first to a building principal, then appealed to the superintendent, then onto an arbitrator.

In this most recently filed ULP (see below), the NFT challenges the actions of our superintendent, saying that Dr. Muenker intended to “chill the exercise of the Union and teachers’ rights … to silence the Union …” (page 5, section 9, first sentence).

Every time the NFT files such a complaint, administration must exhaust their time and tax payer money for legal fees to defend their actions. So even though the public may believe our administration allows the union to go unchallenged, there are 14 examples filed in the preceding 13 months that prove just the opposite.

Post Script - Undoubtedly NFT leadership will consider this post to be nothing more than an effort to derail or distract negotiations. Mind you, they didn't concern themselves with starting a controversy by handing out unapproved literature in violation of district policy. And when confronted about the matter, they didn't hesitate to file an unfair labor practice. It appears that when the NFT takes an action, they call it communicating or standing up for union rights. But when anyone in the district, board or public speaks out against their actions, union leaders dismiss it as stirring the pot. How convenient. How chilly.

Unfair Labor Charge 8-26-11 NFT - School Property

Monday, August 29, 2011

Highlights of Meeting #34

NFT offers revised verbal proposal

Meeting #34 began at 6:45pm and lasted 2-1/2 hours. At the request of the state mediator, Board President Ritchie Webb and NSB attorney Chuck Sweet met with union leader Louise Boyd and NFT attorney Tom Jennings to review the findings of the AFT’s Washington, DC-based Research and Information Director. As this portion of the meeting ended, Mr. Webb reviewed the data with the rest of the NSB negotiating team while the representatives from the NFT took a 50 minute caucus before returning with a revised verbal proposal.

Mr. Webb requested the revised proposal be put into writing so that the information could be shared with the rest of the school board. The NFT indicated they would submit a written proposal sometime this week.

As has been Board practice throughout these negotiations, details of the NFT revised proposal will be shared with the public once it has been formalized in writing, and after the details have been vetted by the Board. Until that time, the Board will not comment on the contents of the latest counter offer.

Both sides agreed to meet again on Wednesday, September 7th at 6pm.

Friday, August 19, 2011

NFT Roadshow coming to a school district near you!

Interested in knowing where and when the NFT will show up next, and what they will say to you? More importantly, are you concerned where they obtained your home phone number from?

The NFT documents below are:

1 – “NFT Roadshow” tells you when and where they will appear
2 – “Parent Script” gives you the very words the teachers will use when they call your home phone (by the way, the author of this document is Dawn Le from the AFT)
3 – “How to Access E-school from Home” proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the NFT is using proprietary, confidential Neshaminy information for union purposes (this info has been sent to our solicitor for review)

With the assistance of the AFT, it seems the NFT will stop at nothing to protect the status quo.

Picketing … WTC … inappropriate use of confidential info … calling you at home. This is the NFT.

NFT Roadshow August 2011

Parent Script August 2011

How Access E-school From Home

Who's calling the shots?

In recent weeks it has become clear the NFT has a new ally in the battle to protect the status quo as the Washington, DC-based American Federation of Teachers (AFT) has brought their considerable resources to Neshaminy. NFT press releases and media updates now filter through the AFT, and even last week’s infamous town hall style telecon with Louise Boyd originated from the 202 area code. This leaves residents wondering who is in charge of the NFT’s reinvigorated PR strategy.

If you are not familiar with the AFT, here are some eye-opening numbers for you . . .

According to AFT’s financial filings for 2010, they had net assets of just under $116 million, and they don’t mind putting that money to use either. Among their 2010 expenditures are:

Communications - $11.5 million
Organizing - $39 million
Strategic Support - $19.9 million
State federations’ solidarity funds - $5.2 million

According to, the AFT and its affiliates doled out nearly $5.28 million in federal campaign donations and PAC money during the 2010 election cycle. In fact, since 1990 the AFT has written checks for more than $31 million in campaign donations and PAC contributions.

The Wall Street Journal reported that AFT president Randi Weingarten’s compensation in 2010 exceeded $600,000, which includes money from other sources beyond the AFT. Filings from the Department of Labor reveal that the American Federation of Teachers disbursed $428,284 to Weingarten last year. Her gross salary is $342,552, but benefits and other disbursements raise that number to almost half a million dollars.

The fact that Weingarten commands such a hefty salary doesn’t really concern me since she is free to make as much money as teachers unions are will to pay her. And to be fair to the AFT prez, I have read a number of positive comments about some of the humanitarian causes she supports. However those causes aren’t the reason for her coming to Neshaminy. Let’s face it, all Randi Weingarten knows about our community is that she drives through it when she travels the I-95 corridor from her NYC home down to the AFT offices in DC. She and the AFT are outsiders who were invited into our community by Louise Boyd and the NFT, and they’ve brought their powerful influence along for the ride.

Harrisburg has made sure that school boards have one hand tied behind their backs when it comes to dealing with teachers unions. Now our other hand must fend off a very powerful combination of adversaries. It’s impossible to know just how much control, if any, the AFT is exerting over the NFT. All we know is that they are here now, and the change is noticeable.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Talks continue but little progress reported

The 33rd session between the NSB and NFT earlier this evening lasted 2-1/2 hours. Board representative Ritchie Webb and attorney Chuck Sweet spent most of the evening in face-to-face discussions with NFT president Louise Boyd and their attorney, Tom Jennings. The state mediator was not present for tonight’s meeting due to a prior commitment.

Although there isn’t much progress to report, the dialogue between both parties remained civil and direct. Once again the NFT had no counter to the Board’s July 18th proposal. No concessions were made by either side this evening and no tentative agreements were reached, but Mr. Webb did confirm the top priorities including reiteration of the Board’s position that there would be no retroactive pay.

Conversation focused on health care, contributions, retirement perks, longevity, and other financial issues. The union acknowledged they are now using the assistance of an AFT (American Federation of Teachers) representative from their research and information service department to help analyze the numbers. The NFT also acknowledged that the step costs reported by the Board at last week’s meeting were more accurate than theirs, but further refinement is necessary.

Another meeting has been set for Augst 29th, which allows the Board time to gather information requested by NFT relative to contract costs. The state mediator will be available for this meeting.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

A "positive" development

Update on tonight's negotiations with the NFT . . .

Meeting #32 lasted for 2 hours, 20 minutes, and although there were no major breakthroughs, Board President Ritchie Webb referred to the meeting as "positive."

The NFT did not offer a counter proposal at tonight’s meeting, so the Board’s negotiation team asked to review its last proposal of July 18th with an emphasis on the costs of the proposal and the savings that would be necessary to approach an agreement. Mr. Webb stressed that we do not want a contract we cannot afford.

The mediator indicated the NFT wanted to be placed on the salary steps they would have received in accordance with their previous proposal. The NFT believed the cost of this move would be $1.2 million. This differed significantly from the Board's estimate which placed the costs in excess of $4.8 million for the 2011-2012 school year. Further review of this topic is needed.

It is important to note that this was not a new proposal but rather a review of the Board’s previous offer.

Both sides agreed more meetings were warranted, and the next session has been scheduled for this Monday, August 15th.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Simon says

In today’s Courier Times is a guest opinion from Pennsbury’s Simon Campbell who takes aim at Ritchie Webb and the Neshaminy School Board for being “tough but nice” in our teacher contract negotiations. I’m sure Louise Boyd would like a moment for rebuttal.

Mr. Campbell’s whole gig is based on his anti-union stance, and he feels we in Neshaminy just aren’t as tough as he is. While I respect Campbell’s views and his activism, I’m disappointed by his Michael Moore-like if you don’t believe as I do then you are wrong mentality.

Since Day 1, the Neshaminy Board has made it clear that our focus was on funding our children’s education in a way that won’t unfairly burden our tax payers. Our stand isn’t based on being anti-union, but it does pit us against the NFT and a burdensome, unaffordable contract. This very fact should put us on the same side of the field as Campbell, but he doesn’t see it that way.

All of us on the board have opinions about unions, certainly about Neshaminy’s if not all public unions. But that doesn’t mean that argument necessarily must be front and center in our philosophy when it comes to negotiating a new teacher’s contract. It’s perfectly ok for us to be focused first and foremost on our children’s education. It’s also perfectly ok that we don’t go around using tough anti-union speak all the time like Campbell does. It doesn’t mean that we are any less committed to our cause than Simon is to his.

Towards the end of his rant, Campbell questions if we are “scared of being labeled anti-union” as if that should be important to everyone. Hate to break the news to you Simon, but I don’t care if people think I’m anti-union or not. My primary concern is for the children of the Neshaminy School District. And I’ve never relied on nasty, hateful rhetoric to make my point. I prefer to stay on message using facts. But if anger and tough talk work for you, then go for it.

What Mr. Campbell fails to see is what we have accomplished in Neshaminy as a board, and perhaps he could learn a few lessons. Case in point: Immediately upon becoming board president a few years ago, Ritchie Webb’s very first action was to contact the minority board members (Bill Spitz and me) to bury the political hatchet and get us all focused on what really mattered to our students, parents and tax payers. Webb didn’t have to do that because he already had a solid board majority. He could have just ignored us but he didn’t. Instead Ritchie Webb saw the value in a board united, and the rest of us were more than willing to comply. No barging in on secret meetings, no in-fighting amongst board members.

Can you imagine Simon Campbell accomplishing anything like that?

But all this still leaves me mystified why Campbell would even bother to vent against the Neshaminy School Board. We shouldn’t even be a blip on his radar. Maybe the answer is found in the second sentence of this morning’s diatribe where he makes reference to the “editorial kudos” we’ve been getting. Is that it, Simon? Are you bothered by the positive press we are getting, and think maybe it’s taking the focus away from you? Are you upset that when people in this state talk about a board standing up to a union contract, the first word they utter is Neshaminy and not Pennsbury?

I sincerely wish Mr. Campbell and the entire Pennsbury Board well in their contract negotiations. I would prefer that this be a time that school boards across Pennsylvania would use this moment to come together in our common struggles rather than find opportunities to divide us. It’s unfortunate that Simon Campbell has chosen to do the latter.

But don’t worry yourself over what’s happening over here in Neshaminy, Simon. We’re getting along just fine without you.


Monday, August 1, 2011

Board issues proposed salary schedule

Below is a salary schedule that Mr. Webb sent to the mediator, Mr. Cairns earlier today. This is a supplement to the July 18, 2011 proposal to the NFT which details the salary matrix through 2014. Although the Negotiation Team advised the NFT that the proposed salary increase was 1% across-the-board, the Board only provided the salary schedule numbers for the first year of the proposal and wanted to verify the last two years before issuing them.

The next negotiation session will take place on Thursday, August 11th.

Board Proposal 71811 - First Year 2011-12 Salary Schedule v2