State labor officials urge DPS, union to meet with governor before possible intervention

Posted at 4:17 PM, Feb 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-04 18:19:58-05

DENVER — The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment is urging both sides in the ongoing Denver Public Schools labor dispute to come together one last time before the state decides whether to intervene.

The CDLE has invited both sides to meet with Gov. Jared Polis early this week to “discuss the path forward.”

In a memo sent Monday to DPS and union officials with the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, the executive director of the labor department wrote, “It’s the Governor’s and CDLE’s strong desire to see these issues addressed and good faith efforts resumed to get to an agreement prior to his decision on or before Feb 11th.”

On Thursday, teachers walked out of a bargaining session fully prepared to strike after rejecting a new offer that the union called a "waste of time."

The memo, written by CDLE director Joe Barela, called Thursday’s negotiations “political theater.”

“Thursday night’s negotiation turned into political theater at its worst, not meaningful negotiations,” the memo read. “This trend is very troublesome and weighs heavily on the state’s decision to intervene or not. It is clearly in the state’s interest to ensure the bargaining process is conducted with integrity and effectiveness, and we are currently concerned that is not happening. One reason the state may be compelled to intervene is that the state would be in a better place to ensure a process is designed to resolve disputes within the scope of the contracts at hand.”

Barela pointed to a lack of understanding on both sides as to why an agreement has not been reached.

“Second, it remains equally troubling that there is a lack of shared mutual understanding of the facts and costs of the competing proposals,” Barela wrote. “As you know, the state has been engaged in conversations with both parties and an informal voluntary process is under way to analyze the competing proposals.”

State labor officials noted in the memo that the contention surrounding those proposals “are predicated on philosophy disagreements other than teacher pay.”

“While much of the public focus in this contract dispute has been on teacher salary levels, upon closer examination it has been our observation that most of the points of contention are predicated on philosophy disagreements other than teacher pay,” the memo read. “These include opportunities for professional development and career advancement, as well as incentives for working in disadvantaged or underperforming schools, and other workplace-related issues.”

The district has spent $136,000 in lesson preps for two days if teachers do indeed strike, according to records obtained by The Denver Post.