Unruly Teamster ejected from school board meeting

A union representative was escorted out of the Fort Wayne (IN) Community Schools board meeting Monday night after discussions became contentious over stalled negotiations of the bus drivers’ contract.

Walter Lytle, who works with Teamsters Local 414, was asked to leave by board Vice President Mark GiaQuinta after Lytle continued to interrupt GiaQuinta. GiaQuinta, who was chairing the meeting in President Steve Corona’s absence, was responding to comments Lytle and others made during the public-expression portion of the meeting when Lytle spoke up in the back of the room in opposition to what GiaQuinta was saying.

GiaQuinta continued to ask Lytle to be quiet and reminded him that he had his chance to speak during the public portion. GiaQuinta warned Lytle that if he didn’t quiet down he would have him escorted out, but Lytle kept talking. GiaQuinta then asked that Lytle be removed from the meeting, and the meeting was recessed. The board then came back into session and voted to give bus drivers two years of past-due raises and pay increases for the next two years.

Since the bus drivers’ contract expired in December 2005, drivers have not received the salary increases other groups received. Last month, the school board approved giving the drivers a 1 percent raise all employees received in April 2006.

Monday’s vote gave about 225 drivers a 1.5 percent raise from 2006, a 1 percent raise from 2007, a 4 percent increase for 2008 and 2 percent for 2009. But Lytle and other drivers say they are not satisfied with just the raises and want the administration to agree on a contract they say was settled in the spring.

A contract was tentatively agreed to by both sides last spring, but Superintendent Wendy Robinson said previously the drivers changed some of the language afterward and ratified it on their side without conferring with school officials. During normal negotiations, Robinson said, both sides meet to agree on the language before either side ratifies the contract.

“As long as the word ‘tentative’ is in front of an agreement, it’s not an agreement,” GiaQuinta said Monday, prompting Lytle to begin arguing.

The drivers disagree and say the contract is virtually the same.

Many drivers say their main issue with the district is that they want a different health insurance package that officials won’t agree to. A previous issue was over a provision known as “fair share,” which would require all bus drivers to pay union dues, but it has been taken off the table.

Lytle said he and other Teamsters representatives are meeting with an attorney today to sue the school system.

“I have no intentions of coming back to the (bargaining) table,” Lytle said.

GiaQuinta, an attorney, said he understands sometimes it takes the legal system to resolve these types of matters.

“If that’s where the matter ends up, that’s where it ends up and so be it,” GiaQuinta said.

In other business:

• The board approved a 4 percent salary increase for 2008 and a 2 percent increase for 2009 for the Nurses Association, Classified Association, AFSCME Local 561, representing secretaries, media clerks, assistants and clerks, and AFSCME Local 561, representing custodians, groundskeepers and food-services workers.

• The board approved removing a cap in the amount of money members can receive annually as compensation for their duties. The decision puts the board in line with the four other Allen County public school boards and school boards in Indianapolis, South Bend and Evansville, none of which has a maximum payment.

Previously, board members could not receive more than $5,000 each year for their services, including payment for meeting attendance and expenses during trips. Because there are more board meetings planned this year, keeping the cap would make it difficult for board members to be compensated fairly, members said.

Board members receive $2,000 each year for meeting attendance.


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