Pattye Benson

Community Matters

teacher union

In a Show of Union Solidarity – Pennsylvania Teachers Unions Joining Forces with AFL-CIO

We have watched the Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker and his battles with state employees over legislation to take away collective bargaining rights. Walker’s actions hit a cord across the country; public employees are drawing the battleground in Ohio, Florida, from coast to coast. Now we see it in Pennsylvania.

The proposed $1 billion budget cut to public education by Gov. Tom Corbett has driven three teachers unions in the Lehigh Valley area to organize. Because of school district budget deficits and state funding cuts, hundreds of teacher jobs are on the chopping block in the Lehigh Valley . . . the teacher unions are fighting back. In a show of solidarity, 3,500 teachers in the Allentown, Bethlehem Area and Easton Area school districts have voted to unite with union members from the Lehigh Valley Labor Council and Pennsylvania AFL-CIO. The teachers are joining forces with their brothers and sisters in the manufacturing, building and service unions to fight Harrisburg. The AFL-CIO membership in Pennsylvania has 900,000 union workers. Together, the unions believe they need to take a stand for the working middle class family in Pennsylvania.

With organized labor getting behind the teachers, one could guess that means additional financial support to help fight Harrisburg. Union members believing that Corbett’s budget is an attempt to balance the budgets on the backs of the working class, these 1.1 million voices are saying ‘no’ to the Governor and his proposed budget cuts for public education.

Exactly what these ‘voices’ have in mind for Harrisburg is yet to be seen. And I wonder if the TESD teachers will decide on a similar path to the Lehigh Valley teachers as the school board works to balance the district budget and as the calendar moves closer to contract negotiations.

Just In . . . State Teacher Union Encourages Local PSEA Members to Consider One-Year Pay Freeze

Seemingly to show support for the severity of the state’s economic situation, the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) is encouraging its local teacher union members to consider Gov. Corbett’s request for a one-year pay freeze in the following press release. 

Could this be the answer to school district problems?  Whether it is the possibility of furlough and school voucher legislation or the current anti-union sentiment that is sweeping the country, I think we should view this as a positive message from PSEA.  Do we know how much revenue would be saved by with a one-year pay freeze in TESD?

PSEA President responds to Governor’s call for a one-year pay freeze

PSEA President Jim Testerman released a March 16 statement responding to Gov. Tom Corbett’s call for school employees to consider a one-year pay freeze.

Testerman released the following statement:

“The education professionals in the Pennsylvania State Education Association have been willing to be good public partners and tackle tough issues before, and we’re willing to do it again.

“We hope to prevent a $1 billion cut in state education funding, but we also realize that tough economic times have hit many of our public school districts.

“We have serious concerns about some of Gov. Corbett’s proposals, but we want to do our part to ensure that our students’ education does not suffer as a result of the worst recession since the Depression.

“As part of his budget proposal, the governor requested that education employees accept a one-year pay freeze. The governor stated that this decision is ‘determined at a local level and arrived at by contract and collective bargaining.’ As president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, I concur.

“I encourage PSEA members to seriously consider this request.

“Today, I sent a letter to the presidents of all PSEA locals.  I encouraged them to enter into discussions with their school boards about a pay freeze or other cost-saving measures to maintain class sizes and academic programs.  In some communities our members have recently agreed to economic concessions to maintain class sizes and academic programs. Their contribution must also be recognized.

“Such cooperation can help to preserve the academic gains made in Pennsylvania’s public schools over the last decade.

“Our scores on National Assessment of Educational Progress, the ‘Nation’s Report Card,’ are among the country’s best.  Our students showed progress in all academic subjects and grade levels.  And seven of 10 graduates are going on to higher education.

“We need public partners to join us in our effort to advocate for our public schools.  PSEA calls on parents, caregivers, and community leaders to ask legislators to prevent the cuts to school funding.  A pay freeze alone will not be enough to preserve the programs our students need to succeed in the future.

“Despite the difficult economy, we must remember that students only get one chance at a quality education.  Pennsylvanians must not permit this recession to rob our children of the opportunity public education provides to prepare them for a better future.

“Pennsylvania’s schools are among the best in the nation.  PSEA remains steadfast in its commitment to provide a quality education to the 1.8 million children who attend our public schools.”

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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