Many in Detroit may summarily dismiss contract dispute cases as being petty squabbles between professional organizations. This may come from an assumption that all of these disagreements come down to a simple matter of dollars and cents (as in, both sides want more of them). Yet to fail to acknowledge the validity of the claims often made in contract disputes may be (at the same time) ignoring the very real problems being experienced by those involved. While the basis on their disputes may center on compensation and commensuration, the ultimate aims may be to simply allow them to continue to perform the services that their contracts call for.
That certainly appears to be the case in a standoff between a school district and a teachers’ union in New Jersey. The teachers are fighting to secure financial relief from a state law that forced school employees to pay more in health benefit plan contributions. These extra payments have cut into the teachers’ take home pay, which some say is now less than it was a few years ago despite them having received raises during that time frame. Despite their desire to continue to support their students’ education efforts, the teachers claim they cannot continue to work without this relief and still support their own families. Their hope is that remedies are written in to their new contract with the school district (they have been working without one since last July).
Getting two sides into a room and not leaving until a contractual compromise is made may be too much to expect due to the complexities of contract disputes. One thing does seem certain, however: Those involved in such disputes may benefit greatly from the assistance of an experienced attorney.