Can’t Eat Prestige
MAINE By the time members of the ESP Associated COLT Staff of the Universities of Maine reached their last agreement with university officials, it was time to bargain their next contract. “We’re hoping to build on the momentum,” says UniServ Director John Bracciodieta, who is again assisting the local with negotiations, which started in February. “It was one of the best settlements in a decade.” Nearly two years in the making, the current contract unfroze step movement to the maximum rate, kept health care affordable, and created a new $9.50 minimum hourly pay rate for all education support professionals (ESPs). Negotiators were aided by a member survey, “Personal Economies II: We Can’t Eat Prestige,” which revealed that employee wages were 22 percent below the state’s per capita income, and 38 percent of workers needed state aid or financial help from family and friends to meet household costs. $40K in ’08
VERMONT The Essex Junction Westford Education Association settled a three-year contract that increases pay by 4.5 percent each year. Starting salaries will rise to $39,313 next year and $40,445 in 2008—09. The top teacher salary reaches $71,100 this year, $73,097 next year, and $75,203 in 2008—09. Health insurance co-payments for teachers in Essex Junction and Westford will increase to 12 percent over the next two years.
First-Ever ESP Contract
TENNESSEE Memphis Education Association ESP became the first ESP local in the history of the state to bargain a contract. Efforts to organize Memphis ESPs date back to 1988. A recent change in the district’s administration paved the way, though under state law school districts are not obligated to enter into formal contract negotiations with school support staff. The new agreement increased the minimum wage to $10 per hour. Other employees received a 2 percent increase. “I no longer feel like an at-will employee,” says bargaining committee member Cathy Beaty.
MINNESOTA When Julie Economy was involuntarily transferred from her first-grade teaching assignment to a fifth-grade position last spring, Education Minnesotaclaimed the transfer was made in retaliation for her union activities. The union filed an unfair labor practices lawsuit that was settled last fall, granting $12,000 to the local union, EM-New Richland-Harlandale-Ellendale-Geneva. The settlement acknowledges that involuntary transfers are a mandatory subject of bargaining, and allows the union the right to grieve violations of staff development laws. Before, administrators made all staff development decisions.
One for All
NEW MEXICO NEA-New Mexico, New Mexico School Boards Association, and other members of the New Mexico Education Partners coalition called on lawmakers to direct 50 cents of every new dollar in general fund revenues to schools. Doing so could raise approximately $300 million to help narrow achievement gaps, reduce class size, increase parental involvement, and attract and retain quality educators, supporters say. It is the first time that all 89 of the state’s school boards passed the same resolution in support of a budget proposal. See http://www.nea-nm.org/ for updates.
New Locals Lining Up
NEBRASKA Two new ESP locals voted overwhelmingly to organize under Nebraska State Education Associaion (NSEA) representation. As a result, more than 60 new members joined South Sioux City Education Association’s 279 certified members. The bargaining unit is focused on reviewing and improving the district’s evaluation process. The Neligh-Oakdale Education Association, with 10 members, also held successful bargaining elections last year. ESPs, who now have eight active units in Nebraska, became eligible for membership in 1998. “While we have only a handful of locals, we do have a growing membership,” says Jess Wolf, NSEA president. He says there are three other school districts organizing ESPs, plus other small pockets of membership.
IDAHO After a school funding proposition was narrowly voted down last November, members of the Idaho Education Association (IEA) are continuing the fight for adequate education funding. Defeated by only 5 percent of the vote, more than 204,000 citizens supported the measure. “They reflect a voice that cannot be ignored,” says Sherri Wood, IEA’s president. “We know many of the voters who did not support Prop 1 believe public schools need more funding. They disagreed with some aspect of the initiative, but nonetheless support public education.” IEA is developing a plan to build support based in part on the “yes” votes.