To the editor:
An Open Letter to the Community from the Perry Education Association
During the last negotiation cycle, the Perry School Board did what most public employees now fear: They refused to negotiate on long-standing issues to place in a master contract.
This action came after the state passed their union-busting bill of chapter 20, leaving public employees like teachers, police and firefighters without the ability to bargain over more than their base pay.
Under the new law, school districts are no longer required to include issues like: work hours, a salary schedule, time off, sick leave or a grievance process in a master contract. The catch is this: Even though it’s not required, school districts can still show their support for teachers by choosing to negotiate those issues with the union anyway.
School districts around the state that understand this have continued to bargain with teachers on the issues that are important to them. Those teachers are still working under the same contracts with the respect and negotiation power they deserve.
The Perry School Board did not show this respect to our district’s teachers. They refused to negotiate on anything but starting salary. This means: Teachers’ and coaches’ pay schedules are not set in a contract this year. Teachers’ hours are not set in a contract. Staff reduction policies are not set — the list goes on.
This also means that any of these items could change for teachers at any time.
School boards that have chosen this route, such as Perry’s school board, argue that teachers shouldn’t be worried, that the administrators and board will not expect anything out of the ordinary from teachers, that they won’t change things without due representation.
This “promise,” however, made without a binding contract, means little when it comes to the issues.
There are teachers in the state who are not getting paid for their master’s degrees. There are teachers in the state who are being told they are required to check their emails at home after school hours. There are schools across the state arbitrarily awarding “relocation” fees to new employees who are men but not to ones who are women.
The teacher’s union was formed for issues like these. Taking away the ability of teachers to have a contract nullifies the expectation that employers acknowledge and have basic respect for their employees. Information in a changeable handbook is not the same as a contract, no matter how many school boards across the state, including Perry, say it is.
We can do something about this. We do not need to support the incumbents who allowed this to happen. Instead, vote Tuesday, Nov. 5 for write-in candidates Erin Holmes and Max Christensen, and show that you support teachers and agree with their right to have a voice about their working conditions.
Write in Erin Holmes and Max Christensen on Tuesday, Nov. 5 to help teachers get their voices back.