Last night, on Monday, Oct. 3, the Pima County Democratic Party's board approved a resolution condemning the past labor contract votes of Tucson Unified School District governing board members and fellow Democrats, Mark Stegeman and Miguel Cuevas.
Cuevas and Stegeman both voted to impose contract language on organized labor rather than entering mediation when negotiations between AFSCME and TEA came to an impasse.
According to Pima County Democratic Party president Jeff Rogers, Stegeman and Cuevas had signed pledges to labor (not the Democratic Party as first reported) that they were committed to the labor process of negotiating in good faith. The resolution also called upon Stegeman and Cuevas to "renew their commitment to the process of negotiating in good faith by reentering negotiations with organized labor (AFSCME), and resort to mediation if an impasse is reached."
Rogers told the Range that there is a long-standing tradition of supporting labor unions in the Democratic Party. Stegeman and Cuevas are in violation of the pledges they signed when they took office.
"We condemned what they did, but not them personally," Rogers said.
The two school board members have been inconsistent in supporting labor, but also in how each supported, or failed to support the Mexican American Studies program under attack by Arizona's right-leaning politicians.
Rogers says he wasn't shy about pointing this out to them when he attended a controversial TUSD meeting in May in which he spoke out in support of ethnic studies.
"We think it is important that if we back a Democratic candidate and labor backs them, then unilaterally opposing a contract as they did was wrong. It has never been done before," Rogers says.
The Range asked if the Pima County Democratic Party has always gone out of its way to support Democratic candidates running for TUSD board seats and that perhaps this resolution signifies a new interest in these positions?
"I think it has become more important, but in the past we have strongly supported school board candidates," he said, even though the seats are considered nonpartisan. "We hold fundraising, sometimes include them in literature."
Throwing support to a candidate has only become complicated when there are two Democratic candidates and on that occasion they usually don't offer support, but in Stegeman's case, Rogers said the party did a lot of fundraising for him and even Adam Kinsey, the Pima County Democratic Party's executive director, worked as Stegeman's campaign manager.
CLARIFICATION: Kinsey contacted the Range to ask for several clarifications. The first, made above, is that the pledge Stegeman and Cuevas made when they ran for office was to labor, not the Pima County Democratic Party. Kinsey did confirm he worked for Stegeman's campaign, but stopped once it was determined Stegeman would be running unopposed. This was also prior to Kinsey being hired by the Democratic Party, as Stegeman wrote in comment below. Kinsey also wanted to clarify that the party didn't directly give money to Stegeman, but that local Democrats supported Stegeman's campaign. "Particularly before it was determined that the race would be uncontested."
"We worked very hard for him. I have a lot of respect for him and thought he had promise," Rogers said.
However, that's changed. This Saturday, party officials will gather to "actively engage to find good candidates for the school board."
Rogers said at last month's Pima County Democratic Party board meeting the resolution first presented focused on Stegeman and Cuevas personally. That resolution didn't pass and was reworked. "We reworked it a little more to narrow it down and be more focused and added the language to encourage them."
Rogers said there are 41 board members, and typically 30 to 35 people attend the meeting. During last night's vote 23 board members voted in favor of the resolution, five voted against and one abstained. The board bylaws require a quorum of one over half in a vote or a simple majority.
In May, Weekly World Central ran a story on the state of TUSD's failing labor negotiations with the Tucson Education Association. Lucy Messing, outgoing president of the TEA, said negotiations between the union and the district were stalled:
Messing asked Pedicone and the governing board if stalling negotiations is an attempt to slow down the process—because district administrators know Messing, who has 30 years of experience, will soon be replaced by Roybal, who has about 7 years of experience.
Under Celania-Fagen, the union agreed to a salary freeze while district supporters worked to pass an override election that ultimately failed.
"We're going into a fourth year of a freeze. That is not good. They can't ask us to give up more when we are already giving up so much," Messing says.
At the May 10 meeting, board member Miguel Cuevas remarked that it was unprofessional for Messing to come before the board publicly to discuss private union negotiations.
"I wouldn't be doing it if I thought the school district was negotiating in good faith," Messing says to the Weekly. "But they aren't, so where do I go from here? There is no law, but there is a mutual respect that we will not negotiate in public. I don't (think) we have gone public. I haven't shared details—just that those negotiations have stalled."
Messing says that the district is asking staff members to do more without being paid more.
"When you want something, you have to give up something," she says. "That didn't happen, so at the very beginning, we're on the defensive. Right away, we're put in the position of protecting the rights of employees."
WHEREAS, Organized Labor and the Democratic Party have a long and storied history of mutual support, and have always stood for the rights of workers; and
WHEREAS, Organized Labor and the Democratic Party support the respectful process of negotiating in good faith; and
WHEREAS, when negotiations break down in the process, mediation is the preferred resolution to an impasse; and
WHEREAS, Tucson Unified School District Board Members Mark Stegeman and Miguel Cuevas have both signed pledges in support of the same values and process supported by Organized Labor and the Democratic Party; and
WHEREAS, Tucson Unified School District Board Members Mark Stegeman and Miguel Cuevas have both voted to impose contract language on organized labor (AFSCME) in lieu of going into mediation when negotiations came to an impasse; therefore be it
RESOLVED, that the Pima County Democratic Party condemns those votes cast by Tucson Unified School District Board Members Mark Stegeman and Miguel Cuevas, which were a violation of the pledges they signed and their commitment to respect the process of negotiating in good faith; and be it further
RESLOVED, that the Pima County Democratic Party calls upon Tucson Unified School District Board Members Mark Stegeman and Miguel Cuevas to renew their commitment to the process of negotiating in good faith by reentering negotiations with organized labor (AFSCME), and resort to mediation if an impasse is reached.
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