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May 08. 2012 6:26PM

Pink slip reality: It's time for a teacher deal

The 161 Manchester teachers who received pink slips last week have been subject to unnecessary emotional distress. Had the leadership of the Manchester Education Association and the majority on the city school board not played political games in the hope of avoiding reality, many teachers might have been spared this ordeal.

As other city unions were agreeing to concessions to save jobs, the MEA's executive board flatly rejected an offer from the city that would have avoided many teacher layoffs by agreeing to have teachers contribute more to their health insurance coverage. The MEA's executive board would not even send the proposal to its members.

MEA president Ben Dick proclaimed in March, “I take my direction from my members.” When members are kept in the dark about contract offers from the city, how is it possible for them to direct the union's action on those contracts?

MEA executive leaders seem to have continued the confrontational approach to bargaining that was developed in fatter times. It is a shame that so many teachers have had to endure being pink-slipped because the union that is supposed to represent them failed to take seriously the city's tough financial situation.

That said, the school board shares some of the blame, too. It also tried to bluff and bluster its way to a higher budget, entirely ignoring the warnings from the mayor and aldermen that no more money was on its way. And it did not make negotiations with the MEA any easier when it approved raises for some administrators who make six-figure salaries.

Reality has hit the school board. With luck, it will have hit the MEA by now, too.


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