Strongsville Teachers Propose Binding Interest Arbitration

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Tracy Linscott approachs the school board building in Strongsville. After initially being turned away, she was eventually escorted to the front door to present the unions proposal to Superintendent John Krupinski.
  • ERIC SANDY/SCENE
  • Tracy Linscott approachs the school board building in Strongsville. After initially being turned away, she was eventually escorted to the front door to present the union's proposal to Superintendent John Krupinski.
The fifth week of the Strongsville teachers' strike looks much like the first: a lot of chanting, a lot of disgruntled community members and, for better or worse, a lot of vuvuzelas. With no major dynamic shifts portending an end to this situation, Strongsville Education Association President Tracy Linscott today proposed a new bargaining route to Superintendent John Krupinski.

But, like much in Strongsville these days, there was nothing simple or understated about the move.

A rally at Strongsville Commons brought together more than 1,000 union supporters this afternoon. After several speeches on their actions - past, present and future - the group marched down Pearl Road toward the school board offices.

After surrounding the building (and sounding the vuvuzelas for the umpteenth time), the protestors berated nearby police officers who were refusing to escort Linscott into the offices. Eventually, Krupinski agreed to meet her in the shadows of the front door, where she handed off the papers.

The proposal revolves around binding interest arbitration, which would put the teachers back in the classroom while negotiations on an issue-by-issue basis begin. If by the end of the fiscal year on June 30 any issues have not been settled, a third party would enter into the picture and call the shots. Decisions would be final.

This type of action was used as a contingency plan during bargaining sessions in 2009 and 2010. The city of Strongsville also uses this type of agreement in its own collective bargaining processes.

"This time, the board refused to bargain in good faith," Linscott said, referring to the past nine months of failed attempts at bargaining. The contracts expired June 30 last year. "They have refused to continue to discuss the issues that need to be discussed in order to settle this contract."

She touched on a few of the "issue-by-issue" concerns that are a part of the contract impasse.

"It's not about money," Linscott quickly said. "It's about - we have class size information on the table that the board is not willing to look at. ...We also have things on seniority that the board has been unwilling to discuss. We have some working conditions where we would actually have more student contact time."

Krupinski was unavailable for comment and it's unclear whether the board will accept the offer. The board made its own "last, best offer" March 2. Linscott says the finality of the board's offer, which is a common turn of events during bargaining sessions, forced the teachers into the strike.

Today, with five weeks having passed in the interim and students back in whatever semblance of "class" or "school" they have after returning from spring break, the tone among union supporters was as strong as ever. Even Sen. Sherrod Brown got in on the action, tossing out the bold claim that he'd go ahead and call up school board President David Frazee to give him the what-for. Frazee's phone number was plastered across several protest signs, making the job easier for the senator.

"You're out because you care about these students and you're out because you believe," Brown said. "What you're fighting for is so very, very important. I believe the school board members and I believe the teachers both care about children in this district."

UPDATE: Both the school board and the SEA representatives have been called to meet with the federal mediator at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow, April 3.

Sen. Sherrod Brown addresses the crowd at todays rally.
  • ERIC SANDY/SCENE
  • Sen. Sherrod Brown addresses the crowd at today's rally.

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