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Posted on Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 10:45 a.m.

Ann Arbor teachers union voting on tentative agreement authorizing 3-percent pay cut

By Danielle Arndt

Ann Arbor Public Schools teachers will continue voting Thursday on whether to give up 3 percent of their pay to help the district reduce its budget by $17 million to $20 million for the 2013-14 academic year.

Voting began Wednesday on a tentative agreement between the union and district administration.


Thousands rally in Lansing in December to protest Michigan's Right to Work legislation. Ann Arbor Education Association teachers also took part in the rally, and now the union is voting on new contract language before Michigan becomes a Right to Work state.

AP file photo

District officials have said they're looking at pay cuts all around this year to help balance the budget and are in the process of renegotiating all employee contracts.

Administrators have estimated a 1-percent across-the-board cut for district staff could save AAPS $1.3 million. It is not immediately known how much the 3-percent cut on the table for Ann Arbor Education Association members would save.

Union members told the tentative agreement includes:

  • A 3-percent salary reduction for all teachers for the 2013-14 academic year.
  • New MESSA insurance options for teachers that will coexist with the current health care offerings at no additional cost to the district. MESSA is a Michigan Education Association insurance provider.
  • A slightly revised district calendar.
  • A clause affirming the union's right to collect dues and shielding it from the Right to Work legislation that takes effect March 27.
  • The reinstatement of a curriculum council with teacher involvement.
  • The development of a science teacher and administration problem-solving group to address science class size issues and overfilled science labs.

The salary reduction would not affect teachers' movement up the salary scale, union members said.

The tentative agreement was presented to the AAEA's general membership during a meeting Monday. Union President Linda Carter, who until last year was president of MESSA, could not be reached Wednesday for comment on the agreement. Superintendent Patricia Green declined to speak about the agreement at Wednesday's school board meeting, stating the district does not comment about ongoing negotiations.

On Wednesday, the school board did set a closed executive session for the purpose of contract negotiations prior to the March 27 regular meeting. The executive session will take place at 5:30 p.m. with the regular meeting starting at 7 p.m.

Union members said the tentative agreement is about five pages in length. They said the clause pertaining to Right to Work would take effect June 30 and run until June 2016 only if the tentative agreement is passed prior to March 27, the date Michigan becomes a Right to Work state. Right to Work is a measure that prohibits unions from requiring the payment of dues as a condition of employment.

The tentative agreement for 2013-14, if passed, would not replace the district's existing contract with the AAEA, in which AAPS is obligated to pay back $4.5 million to the teachers union for money the union saved the district in 2010, said Brit Satchwell, former AAEA president.

Satchwell, who was on the bargaining team when the existing contract was negotiated, responded to questions from about the new agreement. He said the current contract has no expiration date and explained that the payback is contingent upon the improved financial status of the district.

"In essence, the district asked us for $4.5 million in savings, and we gave them it by loaning them ($3 million) over the course of three years," Satchwell said, adding the union's concessions were worth collectively about $3 million, but they resulted in a nearly $4.5 million savings for the district because of the amount of money the district pays to the state and federal government for employee pension costs and the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax, respectively.


Former AAEA President and current Ann Arbor teacher Brit Satchwell

"The last contract linked our fortunes, where we share in the good times and share pain in the bad times. … We don't get repaid, if ever, until their finances turnaround," Satchwell said.

In the contract agreement ratified in June 2010, the AAEA entered a wage freeze for the duration of the contract, increased the number of teacher furlough days and took cuts to members' supplemental pay, among other things, according to the master agreement. And these concessions will remain in place until a couple of "triggers" happen within the district's general fund, Satchwell said.

According to the agreement, each year the total general fund revenue is compared to the previous year's total general fund revenue; and if there is a decrease in revenue from one year to the next, the pay scale for teachers remains the same. If there is an increase in revenue, however, and the district's fund balance increases to at least 10 percent of the district's expenditures, then 75 percent of the general fund revenue increase must be allotted to employees.

"This provision remains in effect until a minimum of $4.5 million has been applied to the salary scale and/or health benefits" of AAEA members, the 2010 agreement states.

Satchwell said the district has not been able to reimburse the union any money since 2010 because those financial payback "triggers" or conditions have not been met.

Satchwell said he wasn't at Monday's general membership meeting but reviewed the tentative agreement afterward. While he is happy the existing contract and payback agreement will not be impacted by the tentative agreement even if it passes, he said he feels "betrayed by both my union and my employer."

"Shame on both of them," he said. "I don't think that either side should have opened the contract. … (When we passed the contract,) we wanted them to rebuild their fund balance by controlling their expenses and I'm not sure that they (the administration) have done a good job of that. Instead, they've built their own deficit on top of the one handed down to them from the state (funding situation).

"And now despite the deal already on the table, they're coming back to us to be their easy button."

Satchwell added he's not sure why teachers are essentially paying 3 percent of their salaries only to get MESSA insurance plans at AAPS that will cost the district nothing and to launch "common sense things that they should do anyway," a reference to the curriculum and science groups that are a part of the agreement.

Satchwell said because the existing union contract with administration has no expiration date, he does not think Right to Work legislation would impact the AAEA until after the $4.5 million is paid back and the contract is fulfilled or another contract is negotiated.

Only contracts that take effect after or are renewed after March 27 will be affected by the Right to Work law, according to previous reports.

"The union's running scared and is using scare tactics on its members," Satchwell said.

Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at


A Voice of Reason

Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 12:10 p.m.

Shame on the MEA! When will education be about getting the best teachers for our students vs. protecting the dead weight in our district. Shame on the school board (clearly bought and paid by the MEA).


Fri, Mar 22, 2013 : 2:35 p.m.

Sounds like Balas wins again and the teachers loose again. When are we going to say no to Balas and make them take a hit? They are too big up there. Remember now the custodians are also trying to rework their contract too. Won't be long before they burn the spokes and nothing is left. But then again, I was reminded of this. In 50 years? Balas won't be needed because most classes will be on line. Go figure.

A Voice of Reason

Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 12:08 p.m.

Sounds like the teacher's union, not the teachers win again. Why won't the union tell what % of teachers voted for the contract?


Fri, Mar 22, 2013 : 12:48 p.m.

So the AAEA, AAPS Administration and the school board are cooperating to keep the dues spigot open to the union, maintain the current unconscionable pre-direction of 75% of all additional revenue the district manages to obtain to teacher compensation AND cut the salaries of teachers by 3%? All of this without any reduction in dues or the union /MESSA administrative rake-off on all teacher health care benefits? Taxpayers, please remember this at the next election. Teachers, you too. When the next union election rolls around, remember who negotiated these contract clauses, the ones that will mean fewer teachers employed overall, with an even larger percentage of their reduced pay going to feed the NEA's political machine. Remember what YOUR union will stoop to in order to keep grabbing YOUR money.

A Voice of Reason

Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 12:09 p.m.

We had a chance to get rid of the bad teachers in this town and they are now protected again!


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 11:08 p.m.

Hmm, seems like just days ago that I posted about the question of attracting more "talent" (aka, PEOPLE) to Michigan. Supply and demand, if there are a lot of "talent" then there's going to be downward pressure because there'll me more "talent" competing for the same jobs. At least that's what I read in the newspapers. ;-) Since the "attraction factor" is supposed to be a big Snyder priority, I have to ask, Exactly what is the attraction for teachers here? For parents who want a great state to raise their kids? Not even mentioned: how does the avg. pay & benefits of teachers in Michigan compare to other states? Is it "attractive"?


Fri, Mar 22, 2013 : 12:40 p.m.

To answer your question,Tru Blu76, yes, the total pay and benefits package for teachers in Ann Arbor, even after 3 years of step-table freeze is VERY attractive. A step table freeze means no more money for a given step in the table, but teachers continued to get raises as they progress up the levels of seniority / more course credits. Other Michigan districts have had actual pay cuts, and every employee, teacher or private sector, is paying more for their health insurance. Michigan as a whole pays teachers very well when compared to our cost of living. When local costs are considered, we are number 2 to 5 in the country in terms of average teacher compensation. In pure dollar value of the average teacher compensation package, we are in the top 25%. Massachusetts pays an average a few thousand higher,more, but the cost of living there is also much higher. And the academic performance of Massachusetts schools is also much higher than in Michigan. However, Michigan schools of education keep churning out qualified teachers here while we have 50-200 qualified applicants showing up for every art, music, social studies, English or elementary general education teacher slot that opens up in metro Detroit public schools. We still do need more mathematics, science and special education teachers; there's more like only 3-5 qualified applicants in the pool for every job available. Probably because the skills and habits of mind needed for math and science teachers also qualify those people to work as engineers, accountants, financial analysts, etc. Being a special education teacher is a calling that not many people want to take up. And given that they make a little more money than most teachers, I'm glad that very few of them are in it primarily for the money.

Jay Thomas

Fri, Mar 22, 2013 : 7:30 a.m.

The Chicago public schools have some of the best paid teachers and yet most of the teachers who live in the city will only send their children to private schools. Don't get too hung up on well paid teachers translating to educational success. It doesn't.


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 11:03 p.m.

The bigger issue is still this, when will the BOE finally make the tough decision when it comes to the budget. Everyone who works in the district will end up giving money to help out, except maybe Balas. But that will not cover all the deficit they claim we have. When will this board begin to make the decisions that are going to be unpopular amongst parents and certain groups within the district. They have basically made employees take the hit so that they don't have to make all the necessary tough cuts. At some point they are going to have to take some heat and make those decisions. It can't always be teachers, secretaries, and custodial staff that make up the shortcomings of a district unable to control their own spending.

Concern Taxpayer

Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 10:27 p.m.

It's all about the money! The taxpayers have taken the hit for a mediocre education. When will we wake up and privatize this shamful system. The unions are worried about their lunch money.

Susie Q

Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 11:59 p.m.

And how will privatizing education improve it? Why would anyone pursue a Bachelor's and Master's degree to teach in a system in which they would be paid a minimum wage. no retirement savings, no decent health insurance, would be an employee of a shareholder-beholden company, subject to no job security? I am certain that no one with options would choose this career. Teachers in A2 have not had a raise since 2007-2008. Many core required classes in the high schools have 30-37 students. They are paying 3%-6% more to the state for pension and insurance and they pay higher gasoline prices like everyone else. It is sad to see these folks so maligned.


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 10:54 p.m.

What article did you read?!


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 9:40 p.m.

This is not a done deal, as no election of any sort ever is. Many teachers are not happy that the union and district have not worked together to reduce the administrative costs from MESSA (there are no immediate health care savings in this TA). Another option would be to leave MESSA totally, keep the same level of care and reduce the costs. Many teachers want to send the parties back to the table to squeeze those savings from the third party administrator (MESSA) and then look to supplement with whatever reduced amount of concessions are necessary. Teachers are ready to continue to do what is necessary to support our students, but are looking for smart, competent leadership from both sides. Current union leadership may be disinclined to pressure MESSA for reductions given that the Union President has such strong ties to MESSA. Current district leadership seems disinclined to do anything about anything.


Fri, Mar 22, 2013 : 11:48 a.m.

Actually, MESSA has an administrative role in all health care plans. For example, an employee who chooses not to participate in a major health plan is given a MESSA package which includes limited vision and dental. An employee who receives BCN is also in a "MESSA" pack that bundles BCN with other benefits. This is the issue, MESSA is involved but adds little value. I don't have the actual numbers, but I would be very surprised if MESSA does not receive fees for "administering" those packages.

Susie Q

Fri, Mar 22, 2013 : 12:03 a.m.

MESSA is not an issue. Very few AAEA members are with MESSA.


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 8:04 p.m.

Did I miss the part of this article that explains the REAL reason for teachers to vote 'yes'--that the district was threatening to invoke the clause which has always been a part of such contracts, that says: if there's a unexpected/sudden/etc. cut in funding of .5% or more, the district can void the entire contract? It was either vote 'yes' and take a 3% cut but keep everything else, or risk losing EVERYTHING: sick bank, steps, protections for probationary teachers, input into the eval process, etc. etc.--things that have been worked out over decades. All of that could have been shredded and we'd be back to negotiating from square 1. THAT is why teachers (like myself) are voting 'YES' for this. That and the hope that an election will change the balance of power in Lansing.

Angry Moderate

Fri, Mar 22, 2013 : 6:42 p.m.

hypatiajones, probably better than the current model of incompetent highly-paid teachers who never get fired no matter what they do wrong.


Fri, Mar 22, 2013 : 2:52 p.m.

It is also why I will vote 'YES' too. Everyone in Ann Arbor should be concerned about this. Imagine only for-profit schools; staffed with inexperienced, low-paid teachers who are employed at will (meaning they can be fired without cause). How would this model serve our children in the long run?

Basic Bob

Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 10:01 p.m.

That's some strong koolaid.


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 9:30 p.m.

Invoking this clause would basically be declaring war with the teachers. Historically the relationship has been fairly positive between the district, the teachers and the community. Perhaps there is a scenario where this works for the district, but it would be a long, ugly, inefficient way to squeeze a few more dollars out of the teachers. I wonder how the AA public would respond to an all out war on the teachers?

Danielle Arndt

Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 8:34 p.m.

Hi Schneb, I did heard some speculation about this from union members -- that it was possible the district was trying to invoke this clause -- but I wasn't able to confirm it. District officials won't comment about ongoing negotiations. But I will continue to look into this some more and hope to be able to speak with union leadership/bargaining team members soon about the TA. If any union members have additional thoughts about this ratification that they'd like to share, I'd love to hear from them. Thanks so much for reading and for your comment sharing why you're voting "yes" on this agreement.


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 7:54 p.m.

How about the Union helping out its members and lowering their amount they collect for their dues?

Susie Q

Fri, Mar 22, 2013 : 12:04 a.m.

Dues have remained the same for many years . Especially dues to the local AAEA.

Basic Bob

Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 9:59 p.m.

That would truly be a sign of good faith.


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 9:18 p.m.

I'll bet that a cold day in hell would happen before any union agreed to lower dues. Wanna bet?


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 7:48 p.m.

WILL the union team take the same or bigger cuts to prove their worth and commitment? Will dues go down? Will the union continue to act as a safety net for the few rather then serve as an advocate for the best of our teachers? Does Messa give protection that is worth 3% from every teacher? Should teachers be taking an immediate cut when the superintendent says it will take her 18 months to make big cuts? Should the teachers wait the same 18 months to bail out a district whose leader can not make immediate cuts? I think the teachers and the principals in this district have given enough. It is time for the community to bite the bullet and do a realistic downsizing that impact special interest groups as much as it does the people on the from line. I for one thought the principals presented the most sane package we have seen so far.

Susie Q

Fri, Mar 22, 2013 : 12:05 a.m.

The AAEA team takes the same 3% cut as everyone else.


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 8:46 p.m.

Right on Olddog, except for the part about the Principals' plan, which protected building and low-level central administration at the cost of everyone else in the district.


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 8:42 p.m.

Is there a link to the principals package or could you summarize?


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 7:25 p.m.

What the teachers union did was no different then what ever other union has been doing over the past few months, negotiate to protect their members. I truly wish Brit would have kept his mouth shut, he isn't the voice for the union anymore, he was voted out in the last election. Brit wasn't part of the negotiations and like many, doesn't know what took place during these meetings. The point is very simple, teachers will be taking a 3% pay cut to help the district out. Did it also help keep the union in place as "right to work" legislation kicks in, yes. This is no different then what UofM has been doing, or Washtenaw County as a whole. The kicker is this, if Dr. Green requires everyone at Balas to take a 3% cut as well, they still make out. Most received double digit raises and those raises are still in play. So instead of an 11% raise, they get an 8% raise. In closing, it would be nice to remember that the same people taking these pay cuts are the ones working with kids every day in the classrooms. It isn't those at Balas who are doing the work, or the BOE who are doing the work, but the teachers. Yet the districts inability to balance a budget by making tough decisions continues to fall on pay cuts from teachers, secretaries, and custodial staff.


Fri, Mar 22, 2013 : 2:45 p.m.

Thank you local for your summation of a very complicated situation. maallen; Brit's "truth" is no more than opinion, as is yours. Please stop bashing unions. Teachers have not received ANY raises since 2010, but we have seen increases in food, taxes, housing, etc. as have all of us. Whether you like it or not, maallen and others, we are all in this together. Education is the single most important factor in determining future success and earnings power for any individual. Our children's success and economic growth is a benefit for all.

Rob Pollard

Fri, Mar 22, 2013 : 2:57 a.m.

maalen, Brit wasn't at the meeting, nor was he part of the negotiating committee for the new contract. So why are you sticking with him?


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 11:37 p.m.

local, Hmmm....let me see if I got this right: You weren't there. But you know someone who was. And because you weren't there you are believing this nameless person who supposedly was. This one person who said Brit doesn't know what he is talking about, so it must be true if that nameless person said so. That pretty much sums it up, right? I am still sticking with: "The union's running scared and is using scare tactics on its members," Satchwell said.


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 10:55 p.m.

maallen, because Brit is speaking information that isn't correct. I work with someone who was on the negotiating team and has great knowledge of the contract and was quick to point out that Brit is misunderstanding the contract he helped create 3 years ago. The alternative to not negotiating was to put the teachers in a position of having zero power to negotiate things like kid free lunch, or daily prep time, and sick days (to name a few). If this cut didn't occur, or isn't approved, those things in the contract go away.


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 9:38 p.m.

"I truly wish Brit would have kept his mouth shut..." But why? Because he is speaking the truth?


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 7:58 p.m.

Local- Well said! You got it right!


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 6:43 p.m.

"The union's running scared and is using scare tactics on its members," Satchwell said. Enough said.


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 6:32 p.m.

They need to do this.


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 7:04 p.m.

No. There should be other ways to reduce costs. Teachers have taken enough hits through increase delays, additional retirement co-pays, medical co-pays, increased work requirements/data reporting, etc. How about administration take a hit first? The look at other support organization consolidation.

Macabre Sunset

Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 5:15 p.m.

Basically, the union is willing to sacrifice 3% of its members' pay in order to continue to receive dues from every member. Either union leaders believe that we are on the cusp of another recession, or they are far more concerned with their own power than the welfare of teachers.


Fri, Mar 22, 2013 : 11:48 a.m.

This is completely untrue as is what's stated in the article. As of next year AAPS teachers have to decide to pay union dues outside of our pay checks. I wish all you union bashes would just be quiet and even try and understand from someone's perspective but their own.


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 10:53 p.m.

If the majority votes to give up 3%, how do you blame this on "the union"?

J. A. Pieper

Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 10:34 p.m.

Yes, they are more concerned about getting their $$$$ from teachers related to Agency Shop and collecting dues.


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 5:01 p.m.

Bret is right. We have no numbers to go on. The union is trying to do an end around to ensure they can continue to collect dues from the same teachers they are betraying. Reduction in pay continues and Messa the sacred cow continues to be well fed. By accepting the terms of the agreement, teachers will agree that they have been overpaid and then cry about how the community thinks they aren't worth the money they make.


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 8:37 p.m.

@Bulldog - That's the point- by agreeing to a wage concession teachers are saying they are being overpaid - give me a raise,stop proposing pay cuts and telling us we should be happy about it.


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 7:50 p.m.

I don't think there is any teacher that will claim being "overpaid!"


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 6:39 p.m.

It's not an end around. They're using the same, legal process our legislature used to pass the RTW legislation during a normally lame-duck (and legislation-free) period.


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 4:56 p.m.

The union wants an updated contract to prevent right-to-work legislation from destroying their funding, so they should expect to give up something in return. The budget is so obfuscated I doubt more than a handful of people really understand where it all goes and whether so-called "cuts" are really cuts or just smaller increases.

Dog Guy

Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 4:21 p.m.

After Professor Marvel convinces Scarecrow that a university degree obviates brains, Scarecrow/Hunk votes for this tentative agreement between AAEA and AAPS.

Morty Seinfeld

Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 10:02 p.m.

Put down the bong and step away slowly.......


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 3:48 p.m.

How does the 3% cut for teachers compare to the cuts being made by the administration?

Danielle Arndt

Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 6:11 p.m.

Chris, I appreciate the suggestion and will consider this. Buildergirl, the cut the principals union or central administration may be asked to agree to has not been made known yet. These groups are still in negotiations, according to district officials. I wouldn't be surprised if we don't hear anything more on the other employee groups' concessions until closer to the formal budget presentation, if not after and closer to the vote. It appears that the reason the teachers union moved so quickly is it felt compelled to pass additional language prior to Right to Work taking effect on March 27. Although, we still have not been able to speak with union leaders to discuss the tentative agreement further. Thanks for reading and for your comments.


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 4:05 p.m.

Exactly Chris. 3% can mean a lot of different things when taken without the context of the overall changes to budget.


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 4 p.m.

I would like to see a story on that lists all of the compensation changes teachers have taken in the last 5-10 years. They have taken a myriad of cuts and they deserve to at least be acknowledged as trying to help mitigate this financial mess.

Dog Guy

Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 3:16 p.m.

Satchwell did a great job for AAEA teachers on the 2010 contract. Good work does not go unpunished.


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 3:14 p.m.

I meant 2% of total projection of reduction.


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 3:12 p.m.

Dr. Green's total compensation is about 2% of the total budget? Wow!


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 6:46 p.m.

Dr Green's total compensation is less than 0.2 percent of total budget.

Tom Todd

Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 3:01 p.m.

Snyder taking a big bite out of household incomes.


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 5:38 p.m.

Snyder is not the problem. Teachers are already giving up pay raises, more towards benefit co-pays, additional pay towards retirement, unpaid work days, etc. to cuts expenses. The administration is taking no pay cuts and the superintendent recieves too high a salary. No one is looking at alternative administration scenarios to potentially combine services between school systems. This move by the union leadership is solely to end run the new right-to-work law and maintain union dues flowing into the union bank accounts.

Usual Suspect

Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 4:17 p.m.

Jackson was closed in 2007.

Tom Todd

Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 3:19 p.m.

do you even pay taxes,how about murderers from Jackson teach your kids


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 3:09 p.m.

So we should raise th school taxes to pay the teachers more whose income does that come from?