From the Vault: September 12, 1997

The following is the EIA Communiqué for September 12, 1997:

+ The staff unions for both the Lousiana Association of Educators (LAE) and the Ohio Education Association (OEA) have been on strike since Labor Day against their teacher union bosses. Picketers marched in front of the OEA building in Columbus carrying signs that read “A Labor Union on Strike Against a Labor Union on Labor Day.” The gyrations of these stories are hard to follow, so bear with me.The Columbus Education Association is involved in a bitter contract negotiation with the Columbus School District. So OEA UniServ consultant Rick Logan has agreed to continue to assist the Columbus EA. But by doing so, he is “scabbing” the Ohio Professional Staff Union to which he belongs (probably with its consent). Meanwhile, secretaries at the Columbus EA have joined the picket line, prompting the Columbus EA to ask members for “your patience as we utilize temporary help.”

Apparently OEA presented a contract with 40 “take backs” to the staff union. The staff union also alleges that OEA “walked away from the table” after presenting this offer. OEA President Mike Billirakis has reportedly been quoted as saying he is willing to lose 30,000 members, if necessary, before he gives in. In OEA’s defense, the average OEA staff cash/benefits package (including “management”) is worth $87,582.

In Lousiana, LAE is attempting to tie staff salary steps to good evaluations (merit pay?!?). Iona Holloway, one of the nine most senior elected officials in the National Education Association by virtue of her recent election to NEA’s executive committee, reportedly crossed the Louisiana staff union’s picket line to answer phones at the LAE office. A source inside the LAE building says there is no end in sight.

Such teacher union/staff union battles are not all that unusual. In the past two years, the staff unions in Kansas, Kentucky and California have conducted bitter fights with their teacher union management. Last year, the Michigan staff union went on strike, and filed a series of unfair labor practice complaints against the Michigan Education Association (MEA). Speaking of which…

+ I’ve been fielding calls from Michigan all week, after the Detroit News printed (on page 1) Mark Hornbeck’s article on EIA’s union salary report. The Associated Press picked up the story, which ran statewide. The Detroit News followed up with a lead editorial the next day, and MEA spokeswoman Dawn Cooper responded, claiming EIA’s numbers were “inaccurate and misleading” and “fraught with errors.”

“I don’t know where they got their figures,” said Cooper.

“We got our figures from the MEA itself,” I responded in a Sept. 10 press release, pointing out that the statistics came from MEA’s own report to the U.S. Department of Labor, signed by the union’s president and treasurer. “If Ms. Cooper believes the figures are fraught with errors,” I replied, “I suggest she contact the U.S. Department of Labor immediately, because MEA would have to be in violation of federal law.” Both the Detroit News and Muskegon Chronicle are planning follow-up stories. Several school districts have asked for copies of the report.

+ Add NEA-New York to the list of state affiliates who will oppose any effort to establish peer review and evaluation programs in public schools. This brings the number of irreversibly opposed states to five — California, Wisconsin, New Jersey, West Virginia and New York — a total of 22.7 percent of NEA’s membership.

+ The New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) decided to make “no endorsement” in the race for governor. But when NJEA held a party for retiring former president Dennis Testa, Gov. Christine Todd Whitman was there to deliver a congratulatory message. Democratic party candidate James McGreevey reportedly “crashed” the party. After a few tense moments when it looked as though McGreevey might be asked to leave, he was ushered to the podium where he delivered his own speech. Activists at the party saw the whole affair as an underhanded attempt by NJEA to endorse Whitman without endorsing her. Whitman, it bears mentioning, is well ahead in the polls.