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Saturday, August 29th, 2009

Celina school board files unfair labor charge against teachers' union

By William Kincaid
The Celina Education Association (CEA) engaged in coercion and intimidation and its spokesperson lied, according to allegations in unfair labor practice charges filed against the group by the Celina City Schools Board of Education on Friday morning.
The charges, submitted to the State Employment Relations Board (SERB) by the school board's legal counsel Thomas Holmes, were released to the newspaper in a bundle of documents by Celina Superintendent Matt Miller at noon on Friday.
The unfair labor complaints were filed directly against CEA spokeswoman Kathy Hart and the CEA itself and comes a week after CEA members overwhelmingly rejected the ratification of a tentative agreement with board members. Most of the charges are leveled against Hart, directly.
The document contains the following seven charges of bad-faith bargaining allegedly committed by the CEA and Hart:
• The ground rules for negotiations - as agreed to in advance - were violated when the CEA brought seven persons to the bargaining table. The limit is five.
• Hart demanded that William Pepple, the board of education's designated bargaining representative, deal exclusively with her rather than Shelli Jackson, a labor relations consultant for the Ohio Education Association and designated as the CEA's bargaining representative.
• Hart lied to Pepple when she said an amended notice to negotiate - designating her as the CEA's new bargaining representative - had been filed with SERB.
"However, contrary to Ms. Hart's assertion, the CEA never filed an amended notice on negotiations. Nevertheless, Ms. Hart continuously demanded Mr. Pepple deal exclusively with her," the document states.
• Approximately 40 CEA members blocked the stairway to the meeting room in which the first mediation session between the two sides was held on Aug. 18, 2009.
"As a means to coerce and intimidate the board of education's bargaining team, the CEA members forced ... the team members to walk through them in order to gain access to the stairway," the document states.
• Hart signed a tentative agreement despite not being in support of it.
"After Ms. Hart signed the tentative agreement on behalf of the CEA's bargaining team, she unexpectedly expressed to the board of education's bargaining team that she was not in support of it," the document states.
• Hart recommended that CEA members not approve the tentative agreement in spite of promising a neutral position would be taken, the document states.
• Hart and other CEA bargaining team members made numerous misrepresentations to ensure the tentative agreement would not be approved, it charges
Such misrepresentations, according to the document, included telling CEA members that administrators don't pay for their health insurance benefits; that association members would be losing money by agreeing to the tentative agreement; and that board members forced the CEA bargaining team to hold a ratification vote on the tentative agreement.
In response to the above misrepresentations, along with Ms. Hart's strong recommendation that the tentative agreement not be approved, the CEA members overwhelmingly voted against the approval of the tentative agreement, the document states.
Board members have requested that SERB find Hart and the CEA in violation of sections of state collective bargaining law.
They also want SERB to order Hart and the CEA to cease and desist from engaging in bad-faith bargaining in the future and make the CEA pay the board of education's legal fees incurred by processing the charge.
The newspaper was unable to contact Hart, but did talk with CEA President Wally Ellinger.
"Kathy Hart has been scrupulous, fair and open throughout the entire process with the members of the CEA," Ellinger said.
Because he did not have a copy of the charges, Ellinger said it would be premature to comment further on the allegations.
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