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The California Supreme Court has ruled that "parity agreements'' guaranteeing nonteachers' groups the same percentage raise that teachers receive are not necessarily unfair labor practices.

The unanimous decision on March 7 said the commonly used contracts may be illegal in some circumstances, but do not, in themselves, violate a state law requiring districts to negotiate separately with teachers and nonteachers.

Prohibiting such agreements would place a "burdensome limitation'' on negotiation procedures and make "settlements more difficult and labor unrest more frequent,'' according to the opinion by the seven-member court.

The case began in 1983, when the Banning school district provided both teachers and nonteachers with 8 percent pay raises. The local chapter of the California Teachers Association then filed an "unfair practice'' charge against the district.

After the state public-employment-relations board upheld the district's decision, the teachers petitioned the courts for a review. They argued that parity agreements give school districts an unfair negotiating weapon by limiting the amounts they can offer teachers.

The Connecticut Association of Boards of Education has asked the commissioner of education to determine whether the state's binding-arbitration law is constitutional.

The move this month continues the group's longstanding challenge to the nine-year-old statute.

The association sued to overturn the law soon after it was enacted in 1979. In 1985, the state supreme court ruled that it could not reach a decision on the matter until the association had exhausted all administrative procedures, including seeking a ruling from the state commissioner, Gerald N. Tirozzi.

The association's petition asks the commissioner to determine whether the law violates the state constitution by transferring authority over taxes and spending from elected bodies to appointed arbitrators.
It also asks whether local school boards are bound by arbitrators' rulings, and whether the law violates the state and U.S. constitutions by prohibiting voters from deciding whether to be bound by such rulings.

The association contends that arbitrators' decisions have, "in the vast preponderance of cases, benefited employee unions and contributed to higher costs, sometimes without regard to [the district's] ability to pay,'' according to Thomas Murphy, an associate executive director of the group.

In 1986-87, Mr. Murphy said, 71 percent of the 52 salary-schedule issues involving school employees' unions that went to arbitration were decided in favor of the unions. In 1985-86, he said, 72 percent of such cases were decided in their favor.

Vol. 07, Issue 26

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