Union Settles After Months of Negotiations

Fiona Murphy, Editor-in-Chief

October 22, 2019

Negotiations have finally concluded after the teachers’ union for the Northern Humboldt Union High School District voted to accept the district’s latest benefits plan. After months of negotiations, school board meetings, closed classrooms, and a student walkout, 87.7% of the union accepted the district’s offer.

The plan includes fully funded health insurance at the “Oak” level for full time staff, a 1% cost of living adjustment and raising the “Health and Wellness” cap, the guaranteed amount that will go toward benefits such as health insurance, to $16,500. 

“Teachers, however, remain tremendously concerned about the hole [we] have been put in with our wages, keeping pace with the cost of living and our benefits cap remaining over $5,000 below the cost of our second tier insurance,” JoAnn Moore, English teacher and negotiations chair, said. 

The accepted offer was not what most teachers were hoping for, and out of the union membership only 5 voted to adopt without any qualifications. The vast majority, 66 out of a total 81, voted to accept this offer with the promise of continuing efforts for “substantial change” in the coming year, and 10 voted to reject. On the ballots, teachers were able to write anonymous comments for the district. 

“Truly bothered by the district’s offer and worried for how this sets us up for future negotiations,” commented one anonymous teacher. 

Aware of this sentiment, the teachers’ union is already preparing for negotiations regarding the 2020-2021 school year. In previous years, those meetings began in April, but the union is planning on a much earlier start this year. 

“We will immediately start to develop our contract re-openers in order to provide the District with a budgetary framework to meet the needs of the majority stakeholders–the teachers,” Moore said. 

The main problem throughout this year’s negotiations process has been the increase in costs and decrease in revenue for the Nohum district. Those costs will continue to rise and how the district will adapt is unclear. 

“This year we are using quite a bit of reserve savings to make this deal work,” Superintendent Roger Macdonald said, “We will simply need to make adjustments to our budget and spending for the [coming] years.”

With negotiations now settled, teachers will be returning to former duties performed outside contractual hours. This means clubs will be able to meet, papers and tests will be graded faster, and classrooms will stay open at lunch.