Lynn Educators Working Together for a Successful Contract Negotiation

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A new contract for Lynn educators includes a two-percent across-the-board raise, additional preparation time for elementary school teachers, increased ‘step increase’ pay for new teachers, and higher pay for substitutes. Contract negotiations formally began last October, but the union’s work to prepare for a successful contract negotiation began far before that. 

In June 2018, the Lynn Teachers Union bargaining committee began working to research and develop proposals for the good of educators, students, and community members. A joint team from the union’s three units – teachers, paraprofessionals, and therapists – worked together to create a survey for all members of the Lynn Teachers Union. Over the summer, the bargaining committee gathered and analyzed the data from members and began to focus in on the greatest identified needs. At the first bargaining meetings in October and November 2018, the teachers’ negotiating team submitted 36 proposals to the Lynn School Committee.

“The negotiations process was handled in a collaborative manner with an open format for discussions, questions, and answers,” said Sheila O’Neil, President of the Lynn Teachers Union, Local 1037. “The process allowed for joint sub-committees to work on proposals from both sides in a collaborative manner. From October to April the process was respectful and open minded on both sides of the table.”

But in April, bargaining for the contract came to screeching halt due to healthcare negotiations with the City of Lynn. Contract talks were delayed until June, and even then the union was met with opposition regarding compensation from the City. The Lynn School Committee had been instructed to delay compensation bargaining until after July 1, and canceled scheduled bargaining sessions for July 8 and July 30.

“We were patient and cooperative throughout those delays, but our patience was running low by the time of our August 13 negotiation session,” said O’Neil. “During the bargaining session our frustration boiled over when we weren’t able to come to an agreement. That night became a union planning session and on August 14 we went into action!”

The bargaining committee reached out to Lynn Teachers Union members and asked them to send emails to members of the Lynn School Committee and the Mayor to demand they bargain in good faith. Educators called for an offer that respected educators, enabled the Lynn Public Schools to recruit and retain high quality teachers, and valued the work educators do for the students of Lynn. With new education aid coming from the state, they asked the school committee and city to put that funding where it’s needed most: to the staff who serve the students.

Hundreds of emails were sent and that action resulted in an emergency executive session of the Lynn School Committee bargaining committee. Unfortunately a more palatable offer from the school committee team did not come out of that session.

However, the next scheduled bargaining session was set for September 3. The Lynn Teachers Union prepared for the first staff development day, that same day, with “RESPECT” stickers and a rally that evening prior to bargaining. Over a thousand employees wore stickers to a citywide development day, and union members and community allies showed up at the rally to support the bargaining committee, chanting “Thanks for the praise, we need a raise!” Their voices were heard loud and clear as the union and the School Committee came to a tentative agreement that evening.

“When we show up and work together, we win!” said O’Neil.

“The Lynn Teachers Union’s contract negotiation shows what we can achieve when educators identify the outstanding needs that exist in our schools and work together with students, parents, and community members to fix them,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “From higher pay for new employees that will help the Lynn schools attract great new educators, to an extra 40 minutes each week for elementary school teachers to communicate with parents or prepare lesson plans, this contract is good for Lynn students and fair to their educators. Congratulations to all the members of the Lynn Teachers Union on their new contract!”