In the ongoing and disheartening contract negotiations between the Reynoldsburg Board of Education and the Reynoldsburg Education Association (REA), tensions have reached a fever pitch.
On Sunday, the teachers’ union presented the school board’s latest contract proposal to the membership and 97% voted to reject the offer. The following morning, REA filed a 10-day strike notice with the State Employee Relations Board (SERB).
While the proposal, according to the Columbus Dispatch, purportedly contained salary increases for many teachers, the union has continued to state that these negotiations are not about money, but are about improving working and learning conditions that are unacceptable. Community support for the teachers has continued to grow substantially over the past few weeks as the school year began without a contract and more parents have become informed and outraged by the school board’s tactics. Reynoldsburg’s teachers have been working without a contract since their previous agreement expired on July 31.
Today, SERB issued a ruling in favor of the union’s complaint that the school board and superintendent had engaged (and have continued to engage) in unfair labor practices by “posting details regarding bargaining proposals concerning insurance and compensation on its website during ongoing negotiations.” Ohio Revised Code Section 4117.11(A)(1) prohibits an employer from interfering with, restraining, or coercing employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in Chapter 4117 of the Revised Code (Ohio’s collective bargaining law). In its ruling, SERB authorized the issuance of a complaint and referred the matter to an expedited hearing within 10 days.
REA spokesperson Kathy Evans shared the news in a press release this evening.
“We have been saying all along that the Board should not be negotiating in public, and we are happy that SERB sees things the same way. The teachers are focused on creating the schools that our students, our parents, and our community deserve. We need to address class size caps and reduce the epic levels of teacher turnover. If the Board put as much effort into the discussions at the bargaining table as they put into publishing spin on their website, we would not be in the position we’re in now. This is further proof that the Board has been relying on bad advice from Superintendent Tina Thomas-Manning.”
The school board has continued to make contingency plans for a strike, contracting with “strike-management” company Huffmaster to bring in substitute teachers at a rate of $175 per day. That cost is in greater than the normal substitute teacher rate and is in addition to the cost of the contract with Huffmaster, who stands to gain money for every day they can drag out a strike. The company has also been asked to supply “unarmed personnel” to provide a “presence” outside of the Reynoldsburg school buildings.
The school board cancelled a scheduled meeting on September 16 and Superintendent Tina Thomas-Manning has cancelled her open office hours in an effort to clear their schedules and, hopefully, find time for authentic and productive negotiation sessions with the REA negotiations team. UPDATE: We were informed that the federal mediator had not proposed any negotiating sessions that would have conflicted with either the school board meeting of the superintendent’s open office hours.
It’s well past time for the school board to represent the interests of the parents and community members and not their own personal political ideas. No one wants this to devolve into a strike by the teachers, and the school board has the power to stop it – easily.
If you want to #StandWithREA, you can share your words of encouragement and support on their Facebook page.
You can also contact the leaders of the school board’s negotiations team:
Andrew Swope, Board President
(614) 864-1175 (home)
(614) 882-8297 (work)
Elaine Tornero, Board Vice President
(614) 759-9735 (home)
Reynoldsburg Superintendent Tina Thomas-Manning