Emergency Manager Law, Emergency Managers, Teachers — August 18, 2011 at 3:51 pm

Northville unionized teachers take a huge hit in their latest contract, Detroit union members fight back


Remember me writing about how Northville, Michigan teachers were being threatened by the imposition of an Emergency Manager as they moved into contract talks?

This scenario was entirely predictable.

The latest call for an emergency manager in Metro Detroit is coming from an unlikely place — the affluent Northville Public Schools.

Stalled contract negotiations between administrators and employees have school board members discussing the possibility of seeking an emergency manager, which under state law must be appointed by the governor.

Emergency managers have the power to void union contracts, remove administrators and take all control of the district’s actions.

The two sides have until the second week in August to come to terms on a two-year collective bargaining agreement. Union representatives and administrators bargained Tuesday, but Superintendent Mary Kay Gallagher said no progress was made.

“(An emergency manager) is a last resort,” Gallagher said. “That is most definitely something that is under consideration, but again that is a last resort.”

Well, here we are a month later and guess what happened to the Northville unionized teachers. They got their asses handed to them to the tune of a 900% increase in their health insurance costs and a pay cut.

Northville teachers and school board members have OK’d a two-year contract that has teachers taking a pay cut, two furlough days and paying 900 percent more for health care coverage.

Members of the Northville Education Association approved the agreement Monday. The Northville Board of Education gave its OK Wednesday night.

Yay for union-bashing! Yay for teacher demonizing! That should do wonders for their morale as they educate our kids, eh? These leeches parasites teachers just need to share in the goddam sacrifice!

In other news, Detroit Public School employees are fighting back.

The union representing some of the least-paid workers in the Detroit Public Schools district filed a lawsuit on Wednesday in an attempt to stop a 10% wage cut.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 25 filed suit in federal court in Detroit, just days after an emergency meeting with DPS bus attendants, special education teachers’ aides and lunchroom workers.

The lawsuit was filed against Andy Dillon, the state treasurer and Roy Roberts, the state-appointed emergency manager for DPS. Roberts modified union contracts to impose the cuts. Dillon’s office approved the move.

The lawsuit argues that the changes are constitutionally prohibited.

Earlier this month, the unions representing the DPS teachers, secretaries and paraprofessionals filed suit against Dillon and Roberts in another attempt to stop the wage cuts.

Godspeed, folks. Go get ’em!

  • la58

    Also add to the list, Plymouth Canton Schools just laid off all there bus drivers and privatized it.

  • aielman

    You guys don’t have binding arbitration in that state?

    Question though…how do you come up with a 900% increase. They weren’t paying anything. Now they pay 20% (which is what we’ve paid for the last two years, btw). The only thing I see they got hosed on there was having a big deductible on top of of the cost.

    So the questions I have that the articles are completely short of information on are this: What deductions in benefits did they settle for in addition to the cost differences? Did they insist on keeping the same wide ranging benefit package? The reason I ask is we’ve cut many of the benefits and paired things down to make our package look like any other standard HMO/PPO package, rather than the “we insure everything” packages that government employees have traditionally had.

    Also…Detroit is a pretty big school district. Are they self insured with a management company like Blue Cross for benefits, or are they still paying for the full Monty with an insurances company? If so, why? They’re getting hosed.

    As to the wage cut, that’s a slightly disengenuous statement. There’s a 4-5% wage cut. And there’s furloughs. A furlough isn’t a wage cut. The wage remains the same, but you aren’t paid for a number of days. When the furlough is ended, you’re still making the same wage. The 4-5% cut, however, is lost. It has to be made up, and can’t be undone by just stopping the furlough.

    They both suck, but furloughs are imminently preferable. They make that 5% back immediately when the furlough ends. If they actually cut salaries by 10%, it could take years to get that back in raises.

    It sucks though…there is no doubt.

    • Regarding the 900% increase, from the article:

      “The average teacher will go from paying about $350 a year for health care coverage to about $3,500 a year.”

      3,150/350 x 100 = 900%

      • aielman

        And what was that $350 a year for? Was that individual coverage or dependent/spouse? I’m not seeing anything about that.

        We pay more than that for both now, btw. It’s $90 a month for individual for Malinda and I and $600 a month for the kids.

    • cryingliberty

      The issue is not whether we have binding arbitration here – it’s that initially, the Northville school system wanted to try to get the governor to appoint an emergency manager when none was truly necessary – just so the board could bust the union, void the contract, and take the teachers over their knee. 

      The math -is- off in the article, however, stating that healthcare costs would go up from ~$350/yr to ~$3500/yr – that’s not a 900% increase, that’s a 1000% increase (increased by 10 times). To go from ~$30/mo to ~$300/mo might not seem like a big increase, but for someone at step 1 who’s only making $33k – that’s a jump from just over 1% of your salary to over 11% of your salary. That isn’t exactly chump change.

      Even someone at step 3, making roughly $36.5k, is going to see that same kind of jump – 1% to just under 10% of their salary for healthcare premiums. The private sector might already do it this way, but their salary levels (commensurate with experience) are higher as a result. On the average, teachers are paid less in cash than their counterparts in the private sector (with similar levels of education, that is) – the statistic most often cited is that from a study by U of Wisconsin-Milwaukee that places the level of disparity of cash compensation at about 11% as a national average – meaning teachers tend to earn about 11% less than their equally-educated private-sector counterparts. Specific data for Michigan from the study places the disparity at about 6% less for state-level workers, and about 12% for local-level workers. 

      You can see the study here: http://bit.ly/eqg8hP

      These factors, combined with the increase in health care premiums as well as the pay cut, are squeezing teachers even more than they really should. Considering the way they were trying to go about forcing the teachers to acquiesce to the board’s demands, it smacks of intimidation tactics. 

      The ONLY bright side (if you can call it that) is that roughly half of the positions the district was going to cut will be reinstated as a result of this move – meaning more teachers will keep their jobs, but if the teachers can’t pay their bills under the new salary rules…what good does it do?

      • aielman

        Actually, it’s absolutely an issue of whether or not binding arbitration is available. If they came to impasse, and don’t have the option, then that may have been the only option.

        As to the healthcare, that’s less than we pay in our district. On top of that, we’re paying 4% into our pension.

        As to the private sector pay, nobody in the private sector gets to work 180 days a year. They work an average of 260 days. And there are plenty of college educated professions who work those 260 days for the same money…it just depends on the industry.

        And believe me…I’m well aware what these cuts are doing. They’ve done them to my family as well.

        • cryingliberty

          I swear, I’m getting tired of having to repeat this point, but:

          Teachers do -not- typically work 180 days a year. The few that actually manage to pull this off have been in the profession long enough that they don’t need to do any of the extra work younger teachers do to satisfy their contracts or state continuing education requirements.

          They work year-round, often attending classes and workshops (almost always on their own dime) to either advance their degrees or to obtain state-mandated CEUs (Continuing Education Units). On top of this, many teachers handle summer-only extracurriculars, do additional work for the district administratively, or teach special classes over the summer. 

          The argument that “teachers only work 9 months out of the year” is outdated and no longer correct by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t know a single teacher who takes 3 months off starting in June.

          Now, as to the rest of your comment…

          Binding arbitration may have been an option (I’m not certain of what they could have done) but given the district’s eagerness to try an have an emergency manager appointed, it may have been a moot point. The union could have forced binding arbitration, at which point the district lobbies for an EM, and the EM could likely ignore binding arbitration with the overly-broad way the EM law is written.

          If you’re only paying 4% into your pension, consider yourself lucky. I know other teachers where they’re paying upwards of 6-8%, and one friend of mine in Illinois is paying 9.5% into his pension. And as for the health care pay-in, is the salary at a higher tier? Are you in a Grosse Pointe district, or are you in a Hamtramck district, economically? 

          What I’m looking at is not the flat number you pay in, but the percentage of your overall salary you’re dropping on it – because if you’re paying out $6,000/yr for your healthcare, but at the same time, you’re making $80,000/yr, yes, you’re paying more by dollars, but less by percentage – which is arguably the statistic that matters more in this case.

          • aielman

            I’m married to a teacher. Her mother is a teacher. Her sister is a teacher. Her father ran the custodial services for the school district her mother worked in. I run the Network Operation Center and Production Certification Center a for a school district. Teachers are typically schedued, and paid, to work 180 days of instruction a year. It often stretches out to 195 days a year with post and pre planning. There are 10 weeks of in the summer of which teachers get 8 1/2 weeks off. They have every holiday the children have off including the 2 weeks for Xmas, the 2 days for Thanksgiving, the week for Spring Break, either Veterans or Labor day (depending on when the school year starts), MLK day (in most states), and Presidents day. They also have 2 to 5 weather days in certain states. All tolled they have 27 days off during the school year that only 6 of which the majority of the private sector get, and they have 44 days off during the summer that everyone else in the country works. They get 7 days of sick leave up to 10 years and 14 up to 20 years and may get as much as 21 days over 20 years in some districts, which rolls over every year for the hours they don’t use (give or take a few years either direction depending on where you are). They’re scheduled for 1436.68 hours yearly @7.33 hours daily in this district.   I know this specifically because I work for the 19th largest school district in the country, and guys that work for me are the ones that post both the pay schedules and the  work/holiday calendars on the website for our district. We also cover every board meeting and workshop, publish the meeting agenda/minutes and maintain the live streaming feeds of the meetings. Also, I personally act as the postmaster/town crier for the district so I format and send every large group or district-wide email, including all mails from the Superintendent as well as all the negotiations between the collective bargaining groups…and I sit at the table for the bargaining and contract negotiations with two of those groups.

            Teachers don’t work 9 months of the year, and I never said they did…they work 10. And I know, quite well how much they spend of their own money (my wife spent around $1k a year when she was in the classroom), and how many hours the good ones work that they don’t get paid for. I also know how nearly impossible it is to find a job for 44 days in the summer that pays more than the cost of daycare. I also know what the ones who aren’t able to maintain their certification requirements during the year end up having to do on their own time during the summer…(and by the way, I maintain my certifications on my own dime, and my own time at an average of $2k per class and $125 per test too…so I don’t have much sympathy for the CEU issue. Welcome to the world of necessary certification to keep your job).

            But be that as it may, teachers have 65 days off a year that the private sector doesn’t get…and they’re paid less money accordingly.

            What binding arbitration could have done, and does when we come to impasse in this district (which we did this year and last) is bind both sides to an agreement. You both eat things you don’t like, and then you drive on. In a case where there are massive budget cuts from the state, the unions end up losing the most. You can’t spend what you don’t have. There should have been no need to call in an EM…the arbitration should have solved the problem.

            And yes…we’re paying 4% into our pension. But then again, we’ve been paying $6k a year for spouse and dependents for our insurance for the last 6. So we can get into a “how screwed are they” dick fight if you want, but I’ll happily concede that working for a school district isn’t what it used to be.

            The health care paying is flat…whether you’re a $31.5k a year first year teacher, to the $250k a year Superintendent. It doesn’t matter what salary you make. We have 2 plans…one that’s free for the employee with a large deductible and little to no co-pay after you meet it, and one that you pay into at the aforementioned $90 a month, but with no deductible and higher co-pays. Everyone pays the same for spouse and dependents. For spouse and dependents it’s just over $500 a month, if you don’t increase your life insurance (equal to your yearly salary by default), add eye or dental, or add any kind of short term disability. All of those are ala carte and cost more. We pay $860 a month combined for our insurance…which is 8.6% of our combined salary with an additional 4% each to our pension…this year. It’ll be more next…if I have a job at all. So we’re paying in 16.6% of our combined income to health care and pension and our coverage is somewhat crappy with no coverage for anything even remotely cosmetic, no bariatric procedures, and a ridiculously small amount of mental health services lifetime, and doesn’t cover 1/3 of the meds I take either.

            I don’t know what the pay scale there is, but a starting teacher makes $31.5k here, and in a state with 67 counties, we are the second worst paid county in the state…but the largest school district by area in the country, and the 19th largest by student population.

          • cryingliberty

            The problem I had with your “days worked” argument is the way it is phrased. It’s an open-ended comparison to the private sector, which is one of the old standby arguments that a significant chunk of the anti-intellectual crowd uses to argue for lowering teacher pay even further, which is why I called it out. It’s one of many tired, old arguments that the Republican establishment in Michigan has been grinding out to advocate for “removing bad teachers”. Additionally, the purpose of the study that I mentioned was an attempt to bring statistics that have some disparity together; taking salaries for teachers that are “billed” at 180 days, estimating what they’d be if they were billed as if they were year-round and comparing them against private-sector salaries with equivalent experience and requirements.

            Your salary data goes a long way towards clarifying exactly what constitutes “billable hours” for a teacher – at least, in the contract sense. If a lot of the people who are screaming that teachers are paid too much saw that data, I imagine they might change their tune. Of course, laying out all of the expenses one goes through just to keep their certificate also could go a long way towards muting some of the screeching going on from certain segments of the population.

            Pay scales in Michigan are all based on a “step” system; steps equate roughly to years of experience, although a district can just as easily withhold a step advancement from you for a number of reasons. In fact, many districts choose to do their pay advancement scales in 1/4 steps or 1/2 steps, as opposed to a full step advancement, as Northville did in this case. 

            What the step scale starts at is determined both by the state as well as the locale; there’s a state scale, which is adjusted up or down according to local demographic data, so, for example, while a Grosse Pointe starting teacher may have their step 0 salary at $65k, someone in Hamtramck may have their step 0 salary set at $30k because of the lower average income in the area. 

            Michigan posts its baseline pay scales online here:

            The chart’s a little hard to read, and there’s a line missing for a 52-week school year with a master’s degree, but most of the data’s there.

            There’s a reason I mentioned what I did regarding an EM. The way the law is written is so over-broad that if the governor appoints an EM, he can basically ignore any of the stipulations that came before – the EM has the power to annul contracts, replace elected officials, and conduct business as the sole point of contact for whatever body (be it a school district or city) he is appointed to serve for. In a case like that, it wouldn’t have mattered what binding arbitration the school district and union would’ve agreed to – the EM can ignore it. 

            That’s why what the Northville school district did was so onerous – in lobbying the governor to appoint an EM for the district, they take the appearance of attempting to subvert the normal legal process that they’d have to go through in dealing with the union.