When the Buffalo Teachers Federation contract expired in June 2004, it was clear even then that coming to terms on a new pact would be a serious challenge.
The state Legislature the year before approved creation of a control board to oversee the city's finances. And just months before the BTF contract expired, a citywide wage freeze was enacted, severely impacting the union's ability to negotiate with the district. Despite those obstacles, no one would have predicted the labor impasse would last 12 years, let alone evolve into the longest public-sector collective-bargaining stalemate in the history of New York State. Through it all, however, there was one constant: BTF President Phil Rumore.
Rumore fought relentlessly to protect the livelihood of his members, as well as the education of the city's children — all while being subjected to an endless barrage of attacks by the media and a school board majority hostile to public education and labor. The impasse brought more than its fair share of dark days. But in recent years, it was clear to see that a new light began to shine in the district. Momentum was building. Parents who believed in the city's schools began to speak up and join teachers at rallies. The Western New York Area Labor Federation and NYSUT locals in surrounding areas became vocal advocates for their BTF colleagues.
After an arduous and bitter 12 years, community pride and union solidarity won the day. A deal between the BTF and the district was finally reached on Oct 17. The saga was over. But Rumore, in speaking with reporters, remained all business. "Now, perhaps, we can start talking about kids," he said.
Here's a look at some key contributions in recent years leading up to the agreement.