Do Teachers Get To Vote on Salary Freezes?

No disrespect intended towards the 71,000 members of the facebook page “New Jersey Teachers United Against Gov. Christie’s Pay Freeze,” but the zeitgeist of NJ seems to be in step with Gov. Christie, Ed Sec Schundler, and the New Jersey School Boards Association’s call for local unions to agree to salary concessions. A recent Rasmussen poll showed that only 28% of New Jersey residents oppose pay freezes, not to mention that school budgets failed two weeks ago at an unprecedented rate; however, 2/3 of school districts that won salary freezes won budget approval. (Here’s a complete list).

There is no doubt a cadre of teachers out that who would happily accept pay freezes, especially with the added incentive that agreements signed within the month will delay implementation of the 1.5% base pay contribution towards health benefits. (Translation: a one-year pay freeze adopted before May 22nd is really a 1.5% pay increase.) However, we’re starting to hear reports of districts where local union leadership is bypassing membership and declining to put such an agreement to a vote. One example: in Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District, a large Somerset County district with a 1,360 member teacher union, the president of BREA explained to the Star-Ledger why he didn’t allow a formal vote after the School Board asked for one: “We truly believe that the executive committee(s) has a handle on how members feel. We talked to people and teachers and we listened.”

And in Wyckoff School District in Bergen County, the Record reports today, the local union is filing an unfair labor practice charge against School Board President Daniel Moynihan because he sent out an email asking WEA members to accept a salary freeze. Explained Moynihan, the union leadership is "just saying no. They haven’t had a general union meeting. The township is asking them to concede, the board is asking them to concede, and they’re not asking their members. It’s kind of a frustrating situation."

Anecdotal reports abound regarding teachers who would happily accept a pay freeze for one year and are frustrated with their Executive Committee’s dismissal of what many regard as a reasonable option that has the added bonus of averting some lay-offs and programming cuts. We’d love to hear from other teachers on this matter.