During the current teachers strike, rumors abound. One of these rumors relates to the Hungerford Law Firm's involvement in the Medford contract negotiations. Teachers have said the Medford School District's proposals follow lawyer Nancy Hungerford's "playbook" for breaking unions. How involved is Hungerford in the district's decisions and proposals?
— Mary L., Medford
Mary, both the Medford School District and the Hungerford Law Firm say the firm has not been directly involved in the Medford labor dispute.
"Absolutely not," Nancy Hungerford said when asked if her firm was playing a role in the Medford district's collective bargaining.
That's not to say Superintendent Phil Long has never had contact with the firm, which is based in Oregon City. Long said the district has received council from attorney Andrea Hungerford regarding special education but is not consulting the firm on any aspects of the present negotiations.
Long also said he has attended conferences in which Nancy Hungerford was a presenter along with other labor attorneys.
"Whenever we go to law conferences — I've probably been to six or seven in the last eight years — we're always looking for how different attorneys perceive what's going on in collective bargaining, what's going on in labor relations, what's going on with employee behavior. Our society is becoming more and more litigious, and it's really important for school officials to understand Oregon school law."
Nancy Hungerford said she has handled personnel relations cases for Eagle Point, been involved in Grants Pass negotiations and advised Ashland and Three Rivers, but Medford is not on her client list.
The Hungerford firm gained notoriety in a blog, "The PiFactory," written by a self-described "radical math teacher" working in Portland. One post, dated April 12, 2012, is titled "The Hungerford papers: playbook to break the teachers' union."
Nancy Hungerford was a teacher in Georgia, Arizona and Iowa and later served as the human relations director for the North Clackamas School District. She has been a lawyer for 33 years, specializing in collective bargaining, unfair labor practice, fair dismissal cases, labor arbitration, among other things.
"I've done a number of conferences explaining recent developments in the state Employment Relations Board cases, but none of those is a strike playbook," she said. "Anyone could go to the Employment Board website and find that information by reading the cases."
Eagle Point Superintendent Cynda Rickert was listed on the firm's client list. Rickert said she has attended Hungerford workshops on proficiency grading and special education but did not involve them in District 9's bargaining either.
"Some districts do use them for bargaining, but we never have," she said.
Nancy Hungerford said there's one telling factor in both the Eagle Point and Medford cases that rules her out as being directly involved.
"I've been involved in negotiating more than 400 contracts, but I've never had a strike," she said.
Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.