9/9/08

Teachers strike continues in PA

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Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Teaching kids a valuable lesson in collective bargaining

After the first week of the teachers strike in the Souderton (PA) Area School District, each side's position remains similar to that of a week ago. And today, students are still out of class, teachers are walking the picket lines and no new talks have been scheduled.

A look back at the first week of the strike includes:

Last Monday, a negotiation session set up by state mediator Jill Leeds Rivera failed to produce an agreement between the two parties.

A strike vote had already been taken by the Souderton Area Education Association, the union representing the district's teachers, on Thursday, and the teachers voted 448-17 in favor of the strike.

"We were not able to reach an agreement; in fact, what they brought back to us is worse than the contract that expired on June 30th," said SAEA head Bill Lukridge on Tuesday, Sept. 2, the first day of the teachers strike.

Senior high school students held a sit-in across the street from their school that morning, looking to make their voices heard too.

"I just want them to know that I'm a senior, and I want to go to school. It's not in favor of the teachers or of the school board," said student Liz Kramlik that morning.

Rivera, the state mediator, kept in contact with both sides over the course of Wednesday and Thursday in order to set up Friday's negotiation session.

"The board is willing to work hard for the resolution of this matter, and its positions in the negotiation process are not impacted by the teachers' work stoppage," said Jeffrey Sultanik, school board negotiator, on Wednesday.

The Friday negotiation session was confirmed on Thursday, as was the Sept. 23 "critical date" by which the strike must end, and both sides seemed optimistic heading into Friday.

"If that's the date, right now we're going to be back in no later than Sept. 23, but I wish we could come back in sooner and have a settlement sooner," Lukridge said on Thursday.

Unfortunately, Friday morning's negotiating session brought no such agreement; and it lasted less than an hour.

Lukridge said that neither side agreed to modify their proposals or change their positions on Friday.

No future negotiations had been scheduled as of Sunday, Lukridge said on Sunday evening.

(thereporteronline.com)

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