It’s Never too Early to Begin Preparing for Labor Negotiations

Joel Gerring

By Joel Gerring, MASB Assistant Legal Counsel

DashBoard, Sept. 2, 2015

As we head back to school this fall, MASB would like to remind its members that it is never too early to begin preparing for bargaining season. The fall is the best time to begin the process of compiling data, conducting surveys and having your current contracts professionally reviewed. Below is a checklist of items that should be completed between now and the spring bargaining season. The sooner you get underway the more relaxed and prepared your bargaining team will be come spring.

“Preparing for negotiations early is a key to helping build a trusting relationship with employees," shared Michelle Falcon, Superintendent at Maple Valley Schools. "It shows that you care about the district and its employees by doing the work upfront, which allows you to be upfront with them.”

Bargaining items that can be accomplished between September and January:

Data Collection:

  • Total operational expenditures of your district
  • Current budget for the bargaining unit with which you are bargaining broken down by areas of expenditure—salaries, health and other insurances, MPSERS, other costs
  • Calculate cost of one percent increase on your current salary schedule assuming your current staff
  • Calculate cost of giving the step increase (also called increments) for current staff
  • Estimate of cost for lane changes (cost of moving staff who will be moving as a result of gaining additional educational credits)
  • Analyze health insurance costs—80/20 versus hard cap
  • Health insurance bids—make sure to allow time for working with your union if changing carriers or plans is possible
  • Estimated MPSERS cost
  • Review past three to five years of settlements and costs—what have bargaining unit members received in total compensation; prepare examples
  • Prepare salary survey for members of the bargaining unit (available on ERIN through MASB)
  • Identify any new revenues expected or losses
  • Identify and quantify any cost-saving efforts over the past three years

Contract Analysis:

  • At a minimum, review your own contract thoroughly looking for provisions that are problems for managers, provisions that may create problems, or need to be modified or removed because of changes in the law; best practice is to have your contract analyzed at regular intervals by an attorney who specializes in labor law or by MASB Labor Relations staff to have a fresh set of knowledgeable eyes on your contract to provide outside insights.

Once this information has been compiled, your negotiation team will be ready to begin meeting with union leadership by no later than February to discuss the process, solicit feedback and begin establishing expectations. Likewise, the process of collecting data and analyzing your current labor agreements will reveal which board members have a solid grasp of the bargaining process and which members do not. In-house workshops (that are typically 60-90 minutes) are a great way to get all trustees and administrators up to speed on the law, current tactics, individual roles/responsibilities and expectations. Finally, having collected this data early on will also assist the board in developing a public relations plan for negotiations a month or two before the first bargaining session.

If you need assistance with data collection, contract analysis or have questions about in-house workshops, feel free to contact the MASB Labor Relations team:

Brad Banasik –

Joel Gerring –

Kacie Kefgen –

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