By John Rosales
Secure Retirement Secured
Colorado The Colorado Education Association (CEA) played a leadership role in preserving the state pension plan that covers teachers and other public employees. As part of the Colorado Coalition for Retirement Security, an alliance of 10 employee groups and unions, CEA members rallied against the governor, state treasurer, and legislators to fight a proposed referendum that would have kept new state employees out of the existing defined-benefit plan, which guarantees a set retirement income based on years of service and salary. Anti-pension advocates were proposing a new defined-contribution plan, in which the state only would put money into an employee’s retirement account, but that account would not guarantee a set retirement income.
NEA has joined other national public employee organizations and pro-retirement security groups to defend retirement security. Along with the Association, coalition members include the Council of Institutional Investors, the National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems, the National Council on Teacher Retirement, the National Association of State Retirement Administrators, and other labor organizations, such as the AFL-CIO, AFSCME, AFT, IAFF, and SEIU. The group aims to give state organizations the information they need to fight their battles. In Colorado, coalition members coordinated research, training, and advertisements.
Despite victories in Colorado and elsewhere, anti-pension advocates are becoming increasingly active, and attacks in other states are likely. To defend defined-benefit plans, NEA has built a Retirement Security Toolkit to help members understand the issues.
Starting Pay Upped
Pennsylvania After almost two years of negotiations, the York County Vocational-Technical Education Association (YCVTEA) has won a starting teacher salary increase of nearly $10,000. “We are in a declining teacher market,” says Clinton Gibbs, the UniServ representative and bargaining team leader. “To attract qualified teachers, board members recognized the need to advance salaries.” Over five years, new teacher salaries will rise from their 2004–05 level of $32,000 to approximately $42,000—60 percent of the school’s highest career rate, which will be $70,044 in 2010.
Three Down, Two To Go
Kentucky After more than a year’s work in five counties, the Kentucky Eastern Region Living Wage Campaign is reaping rewards. A new contract in Lawrence County awards education support professionals a 4 percent salary increase—double the state pay hike—in the first year, as well as an additional $5 for extra duty bus runs, reimbursement for meals while traveling on school business, and two additional days in sick leave benefits for all classified employees. Lawrence ESP (LESP) President Johnny Boggs was assisted by Kentucky Education Association (KEA) staff in conducting a petition drive and appointing a bargaining team to negotiate with the district superintendent and board members. “Our goal was to recognize the dedication and commitment of our hardworking ESPs,” Boggs says. In addition to Lawrence, Johnson and Magoffin counties signed similar contracts, while Floyd and Martin counties remain in a holding pattern.
Minnesota A restrictive “lane change” provision was eliminated from a new contract recently won by the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and Educational Support Professionals, Local 59 (MFT&ESP 59), which represents 1,400 members. Employees who increase their education level will now be reclassified to the top lane for each job classification and placed at a salary rate above their current wage. “This enhances career opportunities for our members and puts the best employee in a job opening,” says union President Rick Norby.
Faculty, ESPs Unionized
Oregon Full-time faculty at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg recently voted overwhelmingly in favor of union representation by the Oregon Education Association (OEA). The vote tally was 48 to 6 in a full-time unit of 64. In a separate election, the college’s 139-member classified bargaining unit also voted, 97 to 15, in favor of collective bargaining with OEA.
Washington Delegates to the 2006 Washington Education Association (WEA) Representative Assembly voted to increase dues by $1 per month for one year to create a fund for addressing health and safety issues at schools. In particular, they want to assess indoor air quality in the workplace. About $800,000 is expected to be raised, says Jerry Painter, WEA general counsel