9/14/07

Teachers reject contract, distribute picket signs

Members of the Cahokia (MO) Federation of Teachers on Wednesday night overwhelming rejected District 187's last contract offer. Union boss Brent Murphy said 97 percent of members voted against the contract, and unless a last-minute deal can be worked out, union members plan to walk picket lines starting Monday.

"We will continue to negotiate, and it is our hope that we can reach an agreement to continue to work," Murphy said, pledging to meet with administrators evenings and all through the weekend to try to hash out a deal. "But the 17th is a firm deadline."

Cahokia School District Superintendent Jana Bechtoldt could not be reached for comment Wednesday. She said earlier in the week that she did not have a feel for whether the district's offer would be approved. But she said she was still hopeful that a strike could be avoided.

Union members -- 300 teachers and 200 secretaries and service workers -- would not comment about the deal after Murphy's announcement. But they did cheer loudly when he revealed the results of the vote. Several stood on the parking lot of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 309 in Collinsville where the meeting was held, calling family members on cell phones to tell them how the vote went. One member brought several picket signs to pass out.

Murphy said he would not reveal the details of the district's latest offer because negotiations are ongoing. But he did say it wasn't very different from the one union members rejected two weeks ago -- with 94 percent voting against a deal -- that called for a 2 percent pay increase.

One of the union members' biggest complaints, according to Murphy, was the fact that no school board members have attended negotiating sessions up to this point.

"We hope, with the statement members made tonight, that board members will come to the table," Murphy said. "They need to hear directly from us."

Union members also were upset with the size of their raise in light of the district recently learning that its state funding has been increased by $1.8 million a year.

According to District 187 Human Resources Director Art Ryan, salary and insurance benefits were the two main sticking points in negotiations. He said the average salary for a teacher in the district is about $58,000. By the terms of the expired, two-year deal under which employees are still working, a first-year teacher with a bachelor's degree earns $36,102 a year while the highest paid teacher currently makes $64,471.

The Cahokia School district has 4,266 students.

(bnd.com)

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails