Bargaining FAQs

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It’s that time of year when bargaining is more often and often much more intense! Here are some common Questions and Answers that will help our members understand the process of Collective Bargaining!

  • What is collective bargaining?
    • Collective bargaining refers to the process by which employers and employees negotiate the terms and conditions of employment, including wages, benefits, working hours, and other aspects of the work environment. It is a way for workers to have a say in their working conditions and to improve their economic and social well-being.
    • Collective bargaining is a key tool for workers to exercise their rights and improve their working conditions. It allows workers to come together and negotiate with employers on equal footing, which can lead to better pay, benefits, and working conditions. Additionally, it can help to prevent labor disputes and strikes by providing a structured process for negotiations.
  • Why do employees engage in collective bargaining?
    • JESPA members engage in collective bargaining to have a greater say in their working conditions and to secure better wages, benefits, and working conditions and to make impacts to improve students’ learning conditions.
  • What is the point of JESPA?
    • JESPA, a member-run organization, and a union, is the representative of the employees and is the body that negotiates with Jeffco. Because the union run and funded by the membership, the union is the only organization to advocate for the best interests of Education Support Professionals, as decided by the Education Support Professionals.
  • What is the role of the Jeffco in collective bargaining?
    • The employer is responsible for negotiating in good faith and making offers that are reasonable and fair. Jeffco should be balancing employee needs and organizational needs, however, we often see that Jeffco administration really isn’t taking bargaining seriously or is simply seeking to take away employee rights and keep wages to a minimum.
  • How long does collective bargaining typically take?
    • The length of collective bargaining varies depending on the complexity of the issues being negotiated and the level of agreement between the parties. While we often are in bargaining February-May, in recent history, JESPA has had bargaining last for over a year fighting for a fair agreement during the pandemic.
  • How does the JESPA bargaining team work?
    • The team is typically made up of workers from a specific job classification, department, or geographic location, and their goal is to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with their employer that outlines their wages, benefits, working conditions, and other terms and conditions of employment.
    • The collective bargaining team is usually comprised of representatives who are nominated by their fellow workers to represent their interests during negotiations. These representatives may receive training and support on the collective bargaining process, develop negotiation strategies, and advocate for their coworkers and are assisted by staff from JESPA, and our state and national unions, CEA(Colorado Education Association) and NEA (National Education Association). The team typically works closely with the membership, with union leadership like board members and building reps, and with bargaining experts to develop bargaining proposals, conduct research, and communicate with their members about the progress of negotiations.
    • The most important part of the collective bargaining team is the membership. All JESPA priorities and proposals come from Jeffco Education Support Professionals and are discussed, debated, and decided each year prior to the beginning of bargaining.  Member leaders communicate about bargaining to their coworkers and show up to support bargaining. Members may engage in collective action, such as letter writing campaigns, rallies, marches, or other collective actions to hold the district accountable and to negotiate fairly.
  • How does the JESPA bargaining team make decisions?
    • Any decision the team makes is based on membership input through meetings, forums, surveys, conversations, working with members during caucus to gauge reactions to proposals and counterproposals, and through building representatives and elected local leadership.
  • What is a caucus and why is it taking so long?
    • A bargaining caucus is a private meeting held by one of the parties involved in a collective bargaining process. During a caucus, members of a bargaining team meet separately from the other party to discuss and strategize their negotiating position, review proposals, write counter-proposals, and consider possible concessions. The purpose of a caucus is to allow each side to privately discuss their positions and develop strategies for reaching an agreement. Bargaining caucuses are a common practice in collective bargaining, and they provide an opportunity for the bargaining team to assess the situation, review proposals and make decisions. The information discussed during a caucus is confidential and not shared with the other party until an agreement is reached.
    • Caucuses can take time for a variety of reasons, such as:
      • There may be complex issues that require detailed discussion and analysis, especially when writing legal language and considering the potential impacts, or costing out financial proposals.
      • The parties have differing priorities and interests that need to be sorted out and discussed, or they are seeking guidance or input from their attorneys, financial teams, or members.
      • The parties may be dealing with external factors that are affecting the bargaining process, such as the political climate.
      • There may be disagreements within the bargaining team itself that need to be resolved.
      • They may be using it is a strategy to wait out the audience of members and tire out the other team, AKA “negotiation fatigue,” where one side intentionally prolongs the bargaining process in order to wear down the other side and get them to agree to unfavorable terms.
    • What is “good-faith” and “bad-faith” bargaining?
      • The prior example might be considered a bad-faith or unfair tactic. He refers to a party’s intentional failure to meet the obligation to negotiate in good faith or to engage in conduct that undermines the negotiation process.
        • Other examples of bad faith bargaining are:
          • Surface bargaining: A tactic used by one or both sides in a collective bargaining negotiation where they go through the motions of bargaining, but without any real intent to reach an agreement. It is often characterized by a lack of meaningful discussion and negotiation, where proposals are made without any real consideration or willingness to compromise.
          • Piecemeal bargaining:
          • Failing to respond to proposals or requests for information from the other side.
          • Engaging in delay tactics or stalling negotiations.
          • Making false statements or misrepresenting facts.
          • Intimidating, threatening, or coercing the other side.
          • Refusing to consider the other side’s proposals or ideas or agree to any proposals, regardless of their merit.
          • Failing to implement an agreed-upon contract.
    • What are all these terms and acronyms?
          • Bargaining Unit: The group of employees represented by a union for the purpose of collective bargaining. JESPA represents most hourly employees who work as support personnel in the district, regardless of union membership and all employees benefit from the agreement.
          • CBA – Collective Bargaining Agreement – A comprehensive agreement negotiated between the union and the employer that outlines the terms and conditions of employment for the duration of the contract, typically 5-6 years in JESPA. It covers a wide range of issues, such as wages, benefits, hours of work, grievance procedures, and working conditions.
          • Reopener – A clause in a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that reopens negotiations on specific issues before the agreement’s expiration date. The JESPA CBA does not use the term “reopener” but has a clause (Article 3-2-2) with mandatory yearly reopeners that specifies what will be discussed annually – In addition to compensation and benefits, each party to this Agreement shall have the option to submit two (2) items of their choice for negotiation, issues for mutual Agreement, and taskforce initiative. This is why it seems like we are constantly bargaining even though the CBA does not expire until August 31, 2025.
          • MOU – A memorandum of Understanding – a written agreement between the employer and the union that outlines the terms and conditions of employment for a certain period of time.
          • TA – A Tentative Agreement – a proposed agreement that has been reached by the parties during negotiations but is not yet final or binding. It represents a preliminary understanding or framework that is subject to ratification by the parties involved.
          • Ratification – the process of formally approving and validating a tentative agreement that has been reached between JESPA and Jeffco. Once the negotiating parties have reached a TA, the terms of the agreement are presented to the union members or the employees for a vote. If the majority of union members or employees vote to accept the agreement, it is ratified and becomes legally binding. Ratification is an important step in the collective bargaining process, as it ensures that the terms of the agreement are supported by the union membership or the employees who will be affected by it.
            • The board of education also votes at a public meeting to approve the TA. As the governing body of the school district, it is under the board’s authority to ratify the CBA.
          • Impasse: – A point in negotiations where the parties are unable to reach an agreement on a particular issue, leading to a stalemate.
        • What is the difference between MOU and CBA?
          • An MOU is a more limited agreement that is usually negotiated outside the context of a CBA. It may address a specific issue or concern, such as a pilot program, a joint training initiative, or a change in work practices. MOUs are often used as a way to test a new idea or experiment with a different approach without committing to a permanent change in the CBA. Current JESPA MOUs include a healthy school meals pilot, a wage committee MOU to collaborate on a new wage schedule, a school closures (ROFTS) MOU.
    • What happens when the parties reach agreements at the bargaining table?
      • See TA above. Any agreement made at the table is “tentative” meaning it still is subject to a vote of the JESPA membership.
    • What happens if the parties can’t reach an agreement?
      • If the parties cannot reach an agreement through collective bargaining, they may either go to impasse which results in a mediation process and/or arbitration, but not reaching agreement could also result in job actions such as a strike.
    • What if the JESPA membership does not vote to ratify the Tentative agreement reached by the bargaining team?
      • The team works hard to engage members at every step of the process and if the bargaining team reaches TA, it is because they have weighed whether it is the best agreement they could have reached on behalf of the membership. If, when getting to ratification, the union membership votes to reject the TA and does not ratify the agreement, then the negotiating teams will have to go back to the bargaining table and continue negotiating. This may involve going back to seek input from members on what changes or improvements they would like to see in the agreement. It is also quite possible that the union would have to escalate job actions, such as a strike, in order to pressure the employer to come to a more satisfactory agreement. Ultimately, the goal is to come to a mutually agreeable contract that both the union and district can ratify.

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