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Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

Teachers' union calls labor charge a way to spread fear, loathing

Celina Education Association responds to unfair labor complaint

By William Kincaid
The Celina Education Association (CEA) says an unfair labor practice charge filed against the teachers' union was intended to spread fear and loathing within the community as negotiations for a new contract have stalled.
The charge, filed by Celina City School's board of education, "appears to have been filed with the intent to create ill will in the community, create fear among the teaching staff and to malign our teachers' good faith efforts to arrive at a settlement with the board," CEA President Wally Ellinger wrote in a statement issued to the newspaper Tuesday.
The unfair labor practice charge, filed by the board's legal counsel last week, alleges the CEA engaged in coercion and intimidation and its spokesperson, special education teacher Kathy Hart, lied during contract negotiations, among many other things.
The CEA believes this unfair labor practice charge will be proven to have no merit.
The charge, filed with the State Employment Relations Board, is being handled by Ohio Education Association attorneys, Ellinger wrote.
"It would have been much better to get down to the serious business of negotiating a contract, a task that I believe should be performed by the local people involved, the real stakeholders," he continued.
  Ellinger also wrote that the CEA was surprised Superintendent Matt Miller and the board took such a path, which included releasing some of the details of the negotiations. Information provided to the newspaper last week showed the CEA wants a salary increase of 7.8 to 10 percent for the first year of the new teacher contract.
"It is my understanding that it is illegal for either the school board or the CEA to divulge to the public or media specific information pertaining to negotiations before a final agreement has been reached, and the CEA will continue to observe that legal mandate," Ellinger wrote.
The CEA will not do its negotiating in the press, he added.
However, Ellinger added that he remains optimistic. The next negotiating and mediation session between the two sides is scheduled for Sept. 17.
"The teachers and BOE are actually relatively close, though you would never know that based on the selective information provided by the board's Cleveland law firm to the media," Ellinger wrote.
Ellinger did not respond to the specific allegations included in the unfair labor practice charge.
Matt Gilmore, president of the board of education, responded to Ellinger's letter in a statement issued to the newspaper this morning.
"As a witness to the events that led to the unfair labor practice charge, I can safely say that all of the board's allegations in the charge against the CEA are, unfortunately, true," Gilmore wrote.
He also brought up that three years ago, the board and the CEA settled a three-year contract in less than two days. The board's negotiating team during that time was essentially the same, including using the same attorney, who has represented the district for more than 20 years, he said.
Both sides started negotiations for a new teacher contract on July 29. After a single, six-hour session, no other meetings were scheduled, and Miller said the two sides were at a stumbling block.
On Aug. 18, federal mediator Steve Anderson was brought in. That same day, a tentative agreement for a two-year contract was reached between both sides. It included a 2 percent raise the first year and a 1 percent increase the second year.
CEA members overwhelming rejected the tentative agreement two days later.
"The board believes that the offer made to the CEA was fair, in the context of current economic conditions," Gilmore wrote. "Our goal is to be fair to all constituents in the Celina school community, especially the Celina taxpayers. However, we will not mortgage the financial future of our district merely to solve a short-term labor problem, nor will we reward aggressive and coercive union tactics."
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