Where there's a will....
Kentucky members bargain a solid first contract--without the benefit of a bargaining law.
In rural Martin County, Kentucky, 170 educators ratified a comprehensive first-time contract early this year. with everything from an 8 percent raise to strong student discipline language in the deal. Not bad for a non-bargaining" state.
Kentucky is one of the 16 states that do not legally guarantee school employee bargaining rights. However--with a push--a Kentucky school board can voluntarily recognize a union and bargain collectively.
That's what happened in the mountains of Martin County. Back in 1994. the school board offered a modest raise. telling Martin County Education Association leaders they lacked funds to do more. But then the board "found" more money for important bus driver needs, like trip stipends.
MCEA members were "upset they were lied to." recalls UniServ Director Marlene Becker. "They organized, got the community behind them. and got the superintendent in the hot seat."
Responding to the pressure--which included Association strike preparations--the board granted formal bargaining recognition to MCEA in January 1995.
Then the Association and school board did something smart.
Instead of digging in for trench warfare, they agreed to try "mutual gains" bargaining, in which labor/management subcommittees set aside personalities and jointly developed language to address specific issues.
"We were really negotiating, instead of sitting across from one another as adversaries," points out MCEA President Gloria Blackburn, a teacher at Warfield Middle School.
The result is an agreement in which "neither party felt imposed upon by the other," says Arden Shumaker of NEA's Office of Collective Bargaining and Compensation.
MCEA and the board signed a two-year master contract that guarantees teachers an 8 percent salary increase this school year. The pact also include a grievance procedure without filing time limits, district-wide transfer rights based on seniority, expanded leave opportunities, teachers' right to bar expelled students from class, and two paid non-teaching days to be used at teachers' discretion.
"Having a written contract makes all the difference." stresses MCEA bargaining chair Mick McCoy, who teaches at Sheldon Clark High School. "This agreement has eliminated much of the local politics that can toy with teachers' lives."