Teachers reject contract proposal, authorize strike
- West Shore Education Association rejected the district's proposed teacher contract.
- The association's bargaining team also approved a strike if needed.
The teachers' union in the West Shore School District on Friday rejected the school board's new contract proposal and authorized a strike if necessary, according to the union president.
Union head Kevin Downs said if the team decides to strike, it must give the district 48 hours notice.
Contract: The negotiations between the school district and the teachers union have been going on for nearly three years. Sticking points include health care, the so-called "Cadillac Tax" — which would be issued in 2020 if the federal government believes the health care benefits are excessive — and teacher salaries.
“What the district is presenting are major concessions in a lot of areas,” Downs said.
He said by some teachers' calculations, they could potentially be losing money.
“That’s not real motivation to sign a contract,” he said.
Downs said the voting took place before and after school on Friday to accommodate the teachers' schedules. He declined to comment on the vote numbers.
“I would say that the bargaining team is very pleased with the results,” he said.
Downs said the bargaining team from the association now will have to meet with the bargaining team from the district to discuss options.
“We have to get back to the table, and I'm hoping the district realizes that the membership is behind the bargaining team,” he said.
He said they also would meet with members of the association to see what they are looking for.
A representative from the district could not be reached for comment.
School board: The school board presented its update of the contract negotiations at a Sept. 8 meeting.
The presentation, given partially by Brett Sanders, director of management and information systems, and Superintendent Todd Stoltz, showed salary increases for all staff but differed from the union's counter-proposal in how those raises would be distributed.
The district maintained it would not support any option in which the "Cadillac Tax" could fall back on the taxpayers. The tax would begin in 2020 and would tax employers that provide a health plan that has excessive benefits, with the federal government determining what constitutes "excessive."
The district also is opposed to teachers' spouses using the district's health care if they have a comparable health care plan with their own employer. The district did state it would allow spouses to continue to use the health care plan until 2018 so long as a $100 monthly surcharge is paid through 2017.
Board president Ronald Candioto ended the presentation by thanking the demonstrators for attending and urging the union to strongly consider their proposal.
"There’s going to be feelings that there’s a lack of respect, that we ignore what happens. That’s a natural part of negotiations," Candioto said during the meeting. "We recognize what you do for our students, and we do want to bless you with a good contract."
— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at email@example.com or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.