Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Local Teacher Union Gives 48-Hour Strike Notice

We have been following the Unionville-Chadds Ford (U-CF) School District this week; their ongoing teacher contract negotiations and independent fact-finding report. (The teacher’s contract expired last June). The school board voted unanimously to accept the report and the school district union, Unionville-Chadds Ford Education Association voted not to accept. How long can the teachers continue to work without a contract? Until a new contract is signed, do the teachers work under the conditions of the old contract? If both sides are at a stalemate, I am curious what the next step is.

Teachers in Montgomery County’s Perkiomen Valley School District have likewise been working without a contract since last June. The school board and the teachers union in this Collegeville school district also received a fact-finding report from the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board last month. Like U-CF school board, the Perkiomen Valley School Board unanimously approved the fact-finding report; and like the U-CF teacher’s union, their union, Perkiomen Valley Education Association (PVEA) rejected the fact-finding report. The report recommended a three-year contract, with an average in $6.564 in raises over the three years and changes in the amount teachers are reimbursed for tuition.

Negotiations between school administrators and the teachers union reached an impasse. Late today, the teachers in the Perkiomen Valley School District gave notice that they intend to strike next week if no deal is reached this weekend. The PVEA issued a 48-hour strike notice, which means a strike could begin on Tuesday.

The teachers’ union and school administrators in Perkiomen Valley School District are meeting with a state mediator over the next few days in homes of reaching a “fair and reasonable” settlement. I visited the PVEA union website and it was interesting to note that the Perkiomen Valley School District has spent $55K to date on legal fees regarding the current teacher contract negotiations.

I am certain that the administration and teachers in the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District are closely monitoring the strike threat in Collegeville.

Is this a sign of our times or evidence of what is to come . . . ?

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  1. To answer Pattye’s question – teachers work to the terms of the old contract (status quo) until a new contract is signed. There is no time limit. There are some districts in the second year without a contract. (Hatboro Horsham)

    I’m not sure what advantage the PV teachers get by striking. With so many snow days the length of the strike can only be a few days.

    Do they think they’ll gain parent support? I don’t think so since the teacher’s rejected a neutral fact finder’s report. The blame from working parents for the few days of inconvenience will fall on the teachers.

    Do they think they’ll put pressure on the board? A strike threat is more potent that the actual strike. Once the board experiences the strike and sees that the district can resume smooth operations the strike “card” looses it’s power.

    Maybe the teachers’ resolve is weakening and the strike is meant to solidify union support. Let’s see if a few days of walking the pavement helps solidarity.

    1. Thanks. So there is no defined length of time that teachers can work without a contract. Very interesting that the teachers work to the expired contract. In some cases, the ‘old’ contract may be substantially better than what a new contract will produce (given the economic climate). What happens if a school district can’t pay the terms of the ‘old’ contract any longer — is there anyway to force the union to accept a contract? Assuming that the school district simply does not have the money for the old contract . . . what is the solution? How is it possible to move past this stalemate? Does the state or federal govt have any rights to intervene?

  2. Pattye says, “In some cases, the ‘old’ contract may be substantially better than what a new contract will produce (given the economic climate).”

    I would express this concept a bit differently – the union has no incentive to agree to a contract that is less than the old contract. In essence, the law guarantees that teachers can only get more; never less.

    Pattye asks, “What happens if a school district can’t pay the terms of the ‘old’ contract any longer…?”

    The district always has the option of reducing head count and costs by either eliminating programs or not replacing retiring teachers.

    Pattye asks, “How is it possible to move past this stalemate?”

    After a while the teachers in the middle of the salary schedule have an incentive to settle. Every year without a contract those teachers are missing out on longevity movement (steps down to a new row) and educational credit movement (step right to a new column).

    Pattye asks, “Does the state or federal govt have any rights to intervene?”

    The length of a strike is limited so 180 days of instruction can be completed by the end of June. A judge actually determines the length a strike can last. At that time the judge can also order court monitored daily bargaining session for both parties. This might be an incentive to settle.


  3. They can only strike when there are days on the calendar that ensure that the district will get 180 days in by June 15. I hope Citizenone is right in that the parents will be angry at the teachers, but the experience (prior to this economy to be sure) is that working parents especially are completely manipulated by strikes and it puts pressure on school boards. Regardless, the damage to a district and its labor relations is very, very long lasting. Perhaps this is just a tactic to solidify the union, but it may also be a tactic whereby they give notice and don’t go…so they can be on a “high road” again and talk about how they did not strike and want what’s best for the kids. I don’t know how many of their teachers live in their district, but it’s really complicated when you are a resident and a teacher, which is why it’s hard to fathom a teacher walking a line locally.

    Pattye — very little restraint. Nothing happens except they are ordered back to work to ensure school will end by June 15 (there may be some issue where it can be June 30 — I don’t remember — but the fiscal year ends June 30.)

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