Mediator joining negotiations with District 11

After six months of collective bargaining, Anoka Hennepin Education Minnesota, the District 11 teachers’ union, has called on the state’s Bureau of Mediation Services for help negotiating its 2013-2015 contract.

“We had 12 meetings, and frankly, there wasn’t a lot of movement there,” Union President Julie Blaha said. “There’s still items the district has yet to respond to and we’re six months into the game now.”

AHEM negotiators don’t see the district meeting them halfway, calling its latest economic offer “virtually unchanged from [its] first offer” in an email to members before winter break.

In district offers, all salary schedule increases have been accompanied by decreases in district contributions to health insurance plans, AHEM negotiators said.

Paul Cady, general counsel for the district and its lead negotiator, declined to comment on the state of negotiations at this time, saying, “I don’t think that’s helpful.”

This year, AHEM pushed to involve its membership in the bargaining process, providing detailed updates and requesting members’ attendance at bargaining sessions. Hundreds responded to the call.

Now that a mediator is involved, the sessions will likely be closed to members not sitting on the negotiations team, as is standard practice.

“We really do hate the idea that we have to go behind closed doors on this, but if it helps us get to a fair, timely settlement, then it’s worth it,” Blaha said.

As a math teacher, Blaha knows that “it’s really hard for teachers to focus on their work entirely when we’re unsettled.”

The union’s nearly 3,000 teachers, almost half of the district’s employees, stand to see their salaries and benefits affected by the 2013-2015 contract.

The first mediation session is scheduled for Jan. 22.

Olivia Koester is at
[email protected]