Candidates weigh in on union discussions

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Colorado Community Media asked the eight school board candidates if they would be willing to resume any discussions with the Douglas County Federation of Teachers. Their responses are listed in alphabetical order below.

Doug Benevento: My answer is no.

If the union wants to send me a letter agreeing with all items we placed before them during our negotiations last year (e.g. no collection of union dues, we will not run union money through the district so union organizers can participate in government retirement programs) and also withdraws its request for intervention by the governor and agrees that it is inappropriate for the union to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to elect preferred board members, I will review that letter at that time. 

Barbra Chase: Because it’s my job to listen to all constituents, yes, I would need to listen to the voice the teachers have chosen.

The board decided to silence that 6o percent (of the teachers); I think that’s why we’re in this situation we’re in today. We’re in a war for talent. So would I consider negotiating a bargaining agreement if that’s what it takes to attract the best talent? I think I would have to. But if we offered them a more collaborative environment, then possibly a CBA isn’t necessary.

Jim Geddes: I’m anti-union, particularly in education. I think they have played an important role in the deterioration of our K-12 education nationally because they place teachers first instead of students.

We need to keep our teachers satisfied and in the best possible professional environment we can, because they are our greatest asset. But the union is more about how the teachers can serve the union. It’s a vehicle for some sociological platforms I don’t agree with. So no, I would not be interested in sitting down with them.

Bill Hodges:  I’m not in favor of a collective bargaining agreement. There are other ways to get people at the table to talk about their issues and concerns. One that’s not probably as negative as a CBA is a meet and confer. Job Alike and focus groups are another way.

I am concerned that 60 percent of the teacher workforce belongs to this association, and yet they have no voice at the table. That would be something I’d want to discuss with the board at great length.

Julie Keim:I think that as a board we need to ensure we restore trust and faith and a safe environment for teachers to take risks and do what’s best for kids. I do not think a collective bargaining agreement is necessary to restore that trust.

Being back at the table is different from having a collective bargaining agreement. If we really want to talk about what makes a great education, let’s bring all the people to the table — teachers, parents, students — to talk about that.

Judi Reynolds: I have no problem with talking about anyone with any issue. I have great reservations about bringing a collective bargaining agreement back in; that’s something I would be against.

If we want to have discussions about things like what the union offers teachers in continuing education, I’d love to know more about that. I firmly got the impression in the last few years that was lacking. I have absolutely no issue with individual teachers belonging to a union. It’s their prerogative to belong to whatever group they see benefit in.

Ronda Scholting: It’s hard for me to say what I’m going to do on this issue if I am elected. Whatever decision is made has to be done with buy-in from everybody on the board.

When I’ve been out talking to voters, I hear from parents that support the teachers association and parents that don’t. But they do support teachers at least being able to talk. The board has alienated them. I won’t make that same mistake. If I am elected, I’m going to listen to everybody.

Meghann Silverthorn: Under the leadership they have now, I’m not interested. I don’t think it’s a productive conversation to have, given the history of some things that have happened. I believe the district is doing a good job of working directly with teachers, given the involvement they’ve had with various initiatives, projects and ideas the district has advanced.

Teachers have choices of professional organizations to which they choose to belong.  They have the right to associate with whomever they like. The district also has choices about recognizing an organization for collective bargaining. 

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