There Is Power in a Union!

What happened at the Board meeting last night?

The APS Board of Education called a “special” board session after the finance committee meeting to discuss our Negotiated Agreement and the tabled ratification vote.

They met in a closed session for almost 2 hours. When they returned to open session, Board President Yolanda Montoya-Cordova read the following statement:

“The matters discussed in executive session were limited only to those specified, and what I’ll do now is just read a statement from the Board.

Board members requested additional time to help us clarify concerns regarding the policies and resolutions guiding the agreement, the negotiation process, and the role and responsibilities of the Board moving forward.

The Board will be working closely with the chief negotiator to set clear priorities. The Board agrees with the collaborative process, knowing it will not always be easy and, at times, messy.

The Board of Education is charged with setting educational strategy for the district in order to bring about the progress we all want and need.

The Board of Education supports our educators and staff who are the foundation of our school community and always fully supported the historical wage increases.

As elected officials we are willing to put in the hard work for the district.

So, our next item for consideration and action is consideration for approval of the 2022-2023 Negotiated Agreement between the Albuquerque Municipal School District #12 and the Albuquerque Teachers Federation. This is a discussion action, so may I have a motion please?”

The motion to “ratify the contract” was then made by Board member Barbara Petersen. Board member Danielle Gonzales seconded the motion. Then, Board President Montoya-Cordova called for a roll call vote. Here were the results:

  • Danielle Gonzales: “Yes”
  • Barbara Peterson: “Yes.”
  • Crystal Tapia Romero: “Yes.”
  • Josefina Dominguez: “Yes.”
  • Peggy Muller Aragon: “No. I won’t be threatened, intimidated, lied to, coerced to force my vote, and I’m not going to let the voters voice be silenced by one entity. We are a Democratic Republic.”
  • Courtney Jackson: “Yes.”
  • Yolanda Montoya Cordova: “Yes.”

Why did 3 of the 4 change their vote?

In the closed session, the Board was joined by some APS administrators, the district’s lawyer(s) and the newly-hired (with taxpayers’ dollars) special lawyer(s) representing only the Board. Of course, ATF was not in the room. But, we imagine that all the lawyers explained that there is a law (not to mention a Board policy) that governs how collective bargaining is conducted and that the Board was breaking the law.

Are you wondering what law I am talking about?

The NM Public Employee Bargaining Act (PEBA) is one of the strongest labor laws in the nation. This law was revised and strengthened in March of 2020 by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. The lobbying of ATF and AFT NM were key in its passage. 

 Now what?

This is just the beginning. Some Board members spewed disrespectful comments about us many times during their meeting on the 17th and vocalized clear disdain for our professional rights as written in our Negotiated Agreement.

The Board’s statement above openly declares that they plan to take a more active role in future negotiations with our union. I can only assume that the goal is to take away the rights some obviously do not believe we should have.

The Board’s statement is not the apology we deserve. Ironically, most of the Board members who had issues with our rights were very positive about our APS/ATF agreement to implement Restorative Practices. So, how might Courtney Jackson, Danielle Gonzales, Peggy Muller-Aragón and Crystal Tapia-Romero restore the harm they have caused to our morale, trust and professional well-being?

Restorative Practices are a way to reconcile and build relationships when harm has been done. A major tenet is that harm affects everyone in the community. Therefore, decisions about how to repair the harm must be determined by the people affected, as they are the only people who truly know how to make things right.

For example, during the August 17th Board meeting, Board member Danielle Gonzales declared, “I think we’re living in la-la land if we think that this professional judgment actually works. It doesn’t.”

Please click here to give us suggestions about how you think this harm to educators can be repaired.

THANK YOU, ATF Members, for signing our petition, writing personal letters, and wearing red on Wednesday in solidarity. We blew up social media with your amazing photos and solidarity.

THANK YOU, Board members Yolanda Montoya-Cordova, Barbara Petersen and Josefina Domínguez, for your unwavering respect and support.

THANK YOU to all community groups and community members who stood by us during this struggle. You made a major difference in the fate of our fight.

In solidarity,

ATF President Ellen Bernstein

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