Colorado

Douglas County School District Responds to Union Complaint

Policy

The Douglas County School District released an official letter over the weekend in response to a Colorado labor department complaint filed by a local teachers’ union. On Friday, the Douglas County Federation of Teachers (DCFT) bypassed the local school district and filed a complaint at the state level with the Department of Labor and Employment, asking them to intervene in the ongoing negotiations at the county level. The union claimed that the Douglas board of education was acting in bad faith relations because the school district ruled against continuing collective bargaining for union members and voted for taking its leaders off of public payroll.

The school district’s letter from Vice President Dan Gerken explains that the board members “are disappointed that instead of continuing negotiations, the Douglas County Federation of Teachers (DCFT) has sought intervention from the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Labor.” The letter noted that the two parties spent over 100 hours attempting to negotiate an agreement.

“As a fiscally responsible board, we simply cannot agree to the union proposal that would require us to deficit spend or cut dollars to the classroom,” Gerken wrote.

The initial June 21 letter from DCFT official Brenda Smith claimed that the union was nullifying many of its earlier concessions made in negotiations and that it reserved the right to do so because a deal had not been struck yet. The two main contentions in the complaint to the Department of Labor involved union dues collected by the district and the full-time paid union members on district payroll. DCFT promised reimbursement to the public school district for the cost of keeping their leaders on salary. However, those reimbursements would not cover the pensions and benefits that would go into effect upon their retirement, at which time that financial burden would rest upon county taxpayers.

In his letter, Gerken noted that the school district consistently emphasized the need for fiscal responsibility. “We have put forth a  budget and negotiations package that balances the district budget, reduces class sizes,  and provides our teachers with a 1% raise, a 1% retention bonus, and increased  benefits,” he wrote.

The school district’s website notes that “no additional negotiation sessions have been scheduled at this time.”

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