Our contract is our guarantee
Collective bargaining is the negotiations process between the union (CSEA) and employer (District) that determines everything from wages and health benefits to hours and working conditions. The result of this process is a legally binding contract, which clearly describes our rights and benefits as employees.
How collective bargaining works
As employees, we belong to a bargaining unit represented by CSEA. Our union representatives and negotiators meet with the employer and discuss issues until they reach a tentative agreement (TA). No agreement is final until it has been approved (ratified) by the chapter members and by the school board. The final agreement becomes a binding contract, and both sides must adhere to its provisions.
Contracts vary from district to district, but they generally cover similar issues. The Education Employment Relations Act (EERA) specifies that in addition to wages and benefits, workplace issues such as leave and transfer policies, safety conditions, class size, evaluation procedures and grievance procedures are all negotiable through collective bargaining.
Get involved to strengthen your contract
A contract is only as strong as its enforcement. To make sure management is living up to its side of the bargain, it is important to know what the contract says. Read your contract and become familiar with its terms. If you don't understand something, ask your union steward to explain it to you. And if you believe management has violated any of your rights as defined by the contract, tell a union steward or your chapter president.
Also, support your negotiating team when they go to the bargaining table—after all, they are there to represent you. Respond to surveys and let your chapter representatives know what changes or improvements you would like to see in the contract. Through the collective bargaining process, you can improve your wages, and terms and conditions of employment, especially with CSEA on your side.
Life before collective bargaining
CSEA supported the legislation that established collective bargaining for California public employees. When SB 160 (Rodda) became law in 1975, it replaced the old "meet and confer" method of resolving issues, whereby school districts used to meet with employee organizations, but had no obligation to reach an agreement. This often led to less job security, smaller wage gains and weaker enforcement of employee rights. However, under the new collective bargaining law, both sides are mandated to make a good faith effort to reach an agreement and sign a binding contract.