Maribeth Calabro: Providence teachers deserve a fair contract

It has been 645 days since the Providence Teachers Union sent Mayor Jorge Elorza a request to begin negotiations for a successor agreement – which expired on August 31, 2017. Providence teachers have been working without a contract for over 406 days. The PTU Negotiating Team has arrived at each negotiation session prepared to bargain in good faith and committed to reaching agreement on a contract that is fair to teachers and good for students. Unfortunately, we have only had fifteen formal negotiation sessions during this time. Mayor Elorza has attended only one of the formal sessions for twenty minutes on August 30, 2018, after eight months without a single session.

After working the entire 2017-18 school year without a contract, the Providence Teachers Union membership voted overwhelmingly to implement work-to-rule. Work-to-rule is a legally protected work action in which employees do no more than the minimum required by the rules of their contract. The vote on this action was not taken lightly, given that Providence teachers are accustomed to going above and beyond for their schools and their students on a daily basis. However, the PTU membership, feeling frustrated, disrespected, and ignored, decided they had no alternative other than this action to protest the status of the prolonged, unproductive contract negotiations.

On January 19, 2018, negotiations with the City essentially broke down when the PTU negotiating team was advised by the City that all previous monetary offers were off the table given the “fiscal crisis” that the City faced. This statement was made just sixteen days after it was reported there was a 3 million dollar surplus in the city. On October 5, 2018, the union learned that the City has an estimated $8 million surplus for fiscal year 2018. Based on the aforementioned events regarding the city’s finances, either Mayor Elorza is being disingenuous when he makes statements privately about the City’s financial crisis or he is uninformed about the City’s financial status. I’m guessing the former to be true rather than the latter.

The Providence Teachers Union’s negotiating team represents more than 1,900 members at the bargaining table. Although we are not at liberty to discuss specific offers made at the negotiating table, we are committed to presenting a tentative agreement to our members which respects their professionalism, continues to support innovative, high-quality teaching and learning, school-based decision making and union/district collaboration that our contract currently offers. We implore Providence City Council members, School Board Members, the Superintendent of Schools and Providence residents to contact the Mayor and request that he negotiate a fair contract with Providence Teachers. It is time that we resolve this matter. It has gone on long enough.

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About Maribeth Calabro 1 Article
Maribeth Calabro is a special education, resource teacher at Nathanael Greene Middle School. She has taught for twenty-five years. She is the president of the Providence Teachers Union and has served as president since 2014. Prior to becoming president, Maribeth served as Vice-President-at-Large and has held various other positions on the Executive Board. She also serves as the Evaluation Coordinator for the district and sits on many committees to support both teacher and student success. She is a proud union member and fights tirelessly for her membership.

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