News

Back to the Table in Ogden!

9/14/2011

Thanks in large part to a consistent message from members the hard work of Ogden Education Association (OEA) leadership, Ogden educators will be back at the bargaining table soon.

Ogden School District
Supt. Brad Smith


In a letter to all Ogden City School District employees, newly appointed Supt. Brad Smith said the District and OEA "will engage in interest-based negotiations for the 2012-13 school year." In addition, he said the District and OEA bargaining teams "will immediately explore and shortly commence joint training in interest-based negotiations."

"The news…that we would be returning to collective bargaining and recognized as the bargaining agent represents a huge win for OEA members and an outstanding reason to be a member," said Ogden-Weber UniServ Director Rick Palmer. Because OEA represents "a substantial majority" (more than 70 percent) of Ogden’s educators, Supt. Smith agreed that "OEA is the appropriate bargaining agent for these negotiations."

Earlier this year, the OEA and the Ogden City School District Board of Education declared impasse on negotiations for the 2010-11 school year. With no contract in place, the Board elected to issue a unilateral contract for teachers for the 2011-12 school year. Teachers were given the ultimatum to sign the contract into which they had no input and that they did not understand or their position would be posted for hire.

“All along OEA members told us they wanted two things,” said UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh. “First, they wanted to keep their jobs, and second, they wanted to get back to the (bargaining) table. My thanks go to the all the OEA leaders and members who put in countless hours of service and to all those around the state who worked so hard in support of Ogden teachers.”

According to Gallagher-Fishbaugh, the resolution to this issue speaks to the importance of UEA membership. “Teachers are bargaining again in Ogden because of the strength of the membership there. Would the Ogden Board and superintendent have recognized bargaining with the OEA if their membership were 60 or 50 percent? No way,” she said.

From the moment UEA staff and leaders learned of Board’s actions, they began working on solutions for Ogden’s teachers. Legal teams from the UEA and the NEA considered alternatives to what was described as a “perfect storm” of events leading to the situation.

“In consultation with NEA, the UEA legal team considered many alternatives,” said UEA Legal Counsel Tracey Watson. “Ultimately we determined pursuing legal action right away was not in the best interest of the teachers.” Watson explained the legal implications in an email to all members Aug. 31.

Nearly 1,000 people gathered in Ogden’s Liberty Park July 14 to support Ogden teachers in their fight against the Ogden Board of Education’s decision to not negotiate a contract with its teachers.

Ogden teachers were joined at the rally by colleagues from across the state who came to support their fellow teachers. Members of several other public and private employee unions, legislators, school board members from other districts, administrators, and Ogden parents also stood alongside educators to support the rights of employees to collectively bargain.

“We have seen the strength of the NEA and the UEA in the fight for public education across the nation and especially here in Utah,” said Palmer. “Our OEA leadership has worked hard this summer and this is a huge win for all of our members. Now, let us show how united we can be as we move into this new era of building relationships and communication.”

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