Teachers union negotiations begin

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM SODDERS – Union leaders, left, and Marshalltown School Community School District leaders, left, share opening union contract proposals at Monday’s meeting.

For the first time since sweeping changes were made to the state’s collective bargaining law in 2017, Marshalltown Education Association leaders sat down with Marshalltown Schools district leaders to begin talks about a union contract.

Those talks will likely take time. Both parties shared their initial proposals for the agreement Monday evening and there were some stark contrasts.

“We believe everyone in attendance sees the value of providing the highest level of instruction to the students of this community in an environment conducive to successful learning,” said union representative and K-6 curriculum coordinator Erica Finders.

With that message in mind, the union leaders said they want to see a base salary increase of $986 for teachers at Marshalltown Schools next school year. Union leader Brad Weidenaar said that would make up for some added costs from part of the district’s new health insurance plan.

The district leaders had a different approach to their salary increase proposal. They proposed a 1.71-percent base salary increase for teachers to cover expected pay increases. Those pay increases are due to some teachers getting a higher level of education, like a master’s degree, or from longevity on the job.

“Next year, the district will have $369,000 in new money in state funding and our proposal for just the teachers would be an increase of $464,144,” said Marshalltown School Board attorney Christopher Wertzberger.

While the union called for a five-year contract, the district leaders want a one-year contract.

Another difference between the two parties was the desired scope of negotiations.

For instance, union leaders said they wanted things like work hours, leaves of absence, and health and safety measures to be on the negotiating table. All of those areas can legally be negotiated, but are not required to be.

The district leaders said all of those areas and more should not be negotiated and instead be spelled out in the employee handbook.

Union leaders also called for the creation of a joint Professional Labor Relations Committee. Weidenaar said such a committee’s job would be to “discuss and make decisions regarding employment manners not referred to in the master contract and other matters mutually agreed upon.”

No final decisions were made Monday about a union contract. The meeting served to set the playing field on which the two sides will discuss, compromise and negotiate a master union contract.

The 2017 changes to the state’s collective bargaining law did several things, including narrowing the scope of what must be negotiated by some public unions and employers. Major factors such as health insurance were made illegal for districts and unions to formally negotiate about, for instance.

“We have common desires to promote the best interests of all students, all faculty and all employees of the Marshalltown Community School District,” Wertzberger said. “We are here in good faith and we look forward to positive, collaborative discussions on these important issues.”

With their initial proposals made, the union and district leaders agreed to go into exempt session to discuss collective bargaining negotiations.

——

Contact Adam Sodders at

(641) 753-6611 or

asodders@timesrepublican.com

This story was updated to reflect that the union leaders said they want to see a base salary increase of $986 for teachers at Marshalltown Schools next school year.