City teachers hold massive rally for new contract

Sep 29, 2016

City teachers held a mass rally Wednesday after years of little movement in talks between the Buffalo School Board and the Buffalo Teachers Federation.

The day opened with a massive BTF rally in Niagara Square, with protestors filling the square, blocking traffic and filling the front steps of City Hall. BTF President Phil Rumore said it showed his members are angry and want a contract.

"Bottom line is it's in the district's court right now. We made a proposal. They didn't like it," Rumore said. "Our proposal was the fact finder's proposal, what the fact finder made. They didn't like it. They said, we have no counter-proposal for you. Well, in negotiations once I make some proposals and the other side makes some proposals and you try to narrow the gap. You don't just say, 'Well, I'm not going to make another proposal.' It's up to them, now, to make a counter proposal."

Rumore also unveiled what he said were the school board's proposals. He said the board offer is too little.
 
"What they added, they said, remember, they said total value. That's adding in personal days, sick days. And, let's talk about extra time. They want us to work two extra days. That's 1 percent. So the 10 percent become 9 percent, 10 percent over 12 years. I don't think so," Rumore said.

Rumore said the next bargaining session is up to the board, while Board chief negotiator Nathaniel Kuzma said the next session is up to the union. Kuzma said the BTF walked out of Tuesday's bargaining session. He said the board offer is a good deal and includes a mix of pay raises and givebacks.

"The proposal that I laid out in the room just now is a 10 percent increase in year one, followed by a 3 percent increase in year two, with health insurance contributions and a longer school day," Kuzma said. "Those are the givebacks we're asking."

"If you look at our proposal, you're looking at half of our reserves being eaten up in four years," Kuzma said. "If you look at the BTF proposal, it would eat up our reserves and more. It would go well beyond that after four years. We would be out of reserves."

Kuzma said a new contract is a top priority of Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash.

"Dr. Cash and his negotiating team want to get this done. We want to get it done as soon as possible for all Buffalo teachers who are deserving of a raise," Kuzma said. "We feel that teachers top to bottom are deserving of a raise and we feel our proposal is fair, competitive and generous and does exactly that."

Rumore said he wants to present a contract for a meeting of the full BTF membership on October 17.