Today I received the following letter from the Chamber of Commerce.  For background, go here, here, and here.  MEA is the McMinnville Education Association.  The employer in question is OnPoint Community Credit Union.  This letter is much more civil than I would have been.  I don’t think either the Credit Union or the Teacher’s Union deserves the respectful tone in which it is written.  Neither has shown any interest in their community.  Both seem totally absorbed with what they think is in their interests.  I guess it’s just another indication of the “Me Generation.”

Dear Chamber Members,

At the McMinnville School District‘s February 14thboard meeting, one of our Chamber board members, at the request of the Government Affairs Council, publicly shared the Council’s position statement encouraging the district and its teaching staff, represented by their union, to resolve their contract negotiations using the limited resources available in a manner which retains the maximum number of teachers.  At that time, she also read aloud excerpts from comments submitted by a number of members in support of the Council’s position.

Within a week of that meeting, her employer allegedly dismissed her for her actions on our behalf.  Anonymous email messages to the Chamber and several of our members, as well as McMinnville Education Association’s own Facebook page, boasted that her dismissal was a result of pressure brought to bear by the MEA and its members against her employer.

We find it deplorable that members of this community would stoop to publicly celebrate the termination of someone’s employment simply for expressing the views of the Chamber and its members.  We find it equally deplorable that her employer would take the action it did, if indeed that was their rationale.  This individual remains a member of our Chamber board.   The board and other members have assisted her in contacting legal counsel and have offered job placement assistance.  Many have made individual decisions to move or close accounts with her former employer.

We’d like to clarify once again that the McMinnville Chamber supports retaining teachers and opposes
the prospect of having fewer teachers in the classroom because limited resources went to higher costs for fewer people.  Somehow, that simple message has been twisted into an anti-teacher position by
those who feel – quoting from an MEA member – that “they [the chamber] have no business in our bargaining.”   As taxpayers, we respectfully disagree.

We come to our position because we feel that increased class sizes are not in the best interests of our students when bargaining steps can be taken to prevent it.  We also feel increased class sizes will soon lead to calls – as the teacher’s union did in 2003 – for increased revenue to address workload and class size issues resulting from the loss of these current teaching positions.  Given Oregon’s fiscal outlook, calls for higher taxes on businesses or local option levies on all taxpayers would not be far behind, and have in fact already been contemplated.

There are two sides negotiating this issue and both bear responsibility for the outcome. We recognize that the union has made bargaining concessions that will help narrow the funding gap.  However, in the absence of additional revenues, they are still asking, and the district is still offering, money that we do not have or expect to receive.  As state budget projections demonstrate, expected funding is now well below what the district can provide without reducing the number of teaching professionals in our classrooms.  Both sides need to put the interests of our students first.  We know many teachers feel as we do and are reluctant to voice opposition to their union’s position.  We hope they reconsider.

We will continue to press the district and the union to avoid the loss of local teaching positions.  At the same time, we urge the business community to join with the Chamber to encourage the Governor and our legislators in Salem to pass an education budget promptly.  This action will at least provide both parties in these current negotiations a clear financial picture with which to move forward.

Matt Lazzeri, Board Chair                                                        Steve Patterson, GAC Chair