Washington Teachers Union President-elect James D. Ricks said yesterday that one of his first goals will be to see if the current union contract can be renegotiated.
"The people who negotiated the contract weren't really the voice of the union," Ricks said during an interview amid a stream of phone calls from well-wishers. Ricks, fresh from a four-vote victory over veteran union President William H. Simons on Saturday, said that "almost 100 percent of the teachers were unsatisfied by the current contract."
The school system's 5,500 teachers received a 7 percent pay raise last year as part of a three-year contract. Ricks said renegotiation should be considered because the contract was settled by a union leadership elected in balloting that was subsequently overturned by the courts. Last November, a U.S. District Court judge ordered a new election after finding that the most recent union election, in May 1981, was not conducted by secret ballot as required by federal law.
Ricks defeated Simons in the court-ordered election, which was formally tabulated and released late Saturday night, by 1,146 to 1,142.
School board Vice President Nathaniel Bush (Ward 7) said yesterday that he seriously doubted that the board would support renegotiation. "We negotiated in good faith," Bush said. "We don't really have the money to pay for the raises they have now, but we are paying them."
Ricks, who was elected on a platform of bringing the union closer to the teachers and providing more aggressive leadership, said he plans to set up a transition team to study the union's future.
He expressed some concern over a recent board action requiring teachers to show mastery of computer literacy and related software skills as part of the recertification process they go through every five years.
"There aren't enough specifics. Are they talking about just being able to use the equipment? And who is going to pay for the training? I want to know if it has to come out of the teachers' pockets," Ricks said.
Ricks said another goal is to get the union's membership behind him after the split vote. Although the turnout--2,582 of the 4,200 members--was far greater than past elections, Ricks won by only a slim margin, and the Simons slate won 20 of 22 positions on the union's board. Only Ricks slate member Jeanette Feely survived, winning the union's general vice presidency. Ricks said he thought the Simons delegates would work with him.
Board members R. Calvin Lockridge (Ward 8) and Barbara Lett-Simmons (At Large) said the vote still showed that teachers wanted a change. Ricks, head of the science department at Ballou High School, had been trying for the top union post for 10 years, having lost to Simons in three previous elections.
"Oh my God," Ricks said, interrupting the interview for the 12th time to accept another congratulatory call. "I'm happy I won. I've been after this for so long that I'm ready to go to work this afternoon."