School district unions file unfair labor charges

November 4, 2008

By Chantelle Lusebrink

The two unions representing Issaquah School District custodial and grounds maintenance workers and bus mechanics have filed unfair labor practice charges with the state’s Public Employment Relations Commission.
Jason Powell, the business agent for Teamsters Union Local 763, representing the custodians, filed the charges Oct. 17. The bus mechanics’ representative, Ron Harrell, with the International Association of Machinists, filed similar charges Oct. 28.

“The Issaquah School District is not negotiating with their employees,” Powell said. “The district is not negotiating in good faith. The district is demanding language concessions in our agreement that has nothing to do with economics and that our members will never agree to.”

Powell has said he has made several counter proposals to district officials’ initial proposals with little to no movement, which is why the charges were filed.

“We think we are making good progress,” said Sara Niegowski, district director of communications. “We are working through difficult issues and that takes time to get to resolution for both parties, and I think we will have resolution soon.”

Commission investigators will independently review each charge, Powell said.

According to Powell, if the commission determines the district is bargaining in bad faith, it can mandate that the district’s bargaining fulfill his request to set up six additional bargaining sessions and provide substantive proposals to him and his bargaining group.

If district officials are found, regarding either of the unions’ charges, in violation of state law by not passing through the cost of living adjustment and added health benefit increases, commission investigators can mandate that district officials pass through each, dating back to Sept. 1.

Neither union’s employees are receiving their cost of living adjustment nor their health benefits increase this year. Each employee is paying an additional $25 per month to compensate for district officials not passing those through, in addition to their out-of-pocket medical expenses, Powell said.

District officials denied passing on health benefits increases last year when the contract for educational assistants lapsed and the group was still bargaining. District officials then had to reimburse those employees that expense after a new contract was negotiated.Both unions have been in negotiations with the district’s bargaining team since June and continued bargaining after their members’ contracts expired Aug. 31.

At issue in both contracts are contract language changes, such as the length of time disciplinary actions stay on employee records, and wages.

However, communications continued to break down between the unions and district officials after the bus mechanics rejected the district’s last and best offer Sept. 4.

On Sept. 9, Harrell and the district’s bargaining team members filed for mediation with the Public Employment Relations Commission.

Powell said he also filed with district officials for mediation with the commission Sept. 11.

Both unions have since met with district officials with a mediator.

“They took a position June 10 and have not moved from it,” Powell said. “That is bargaining in bad faith and that is why we have brought the unfair labor charges. The Issaquah School District has violated Washington state law.”

He said his union members continue to agree to some of the district’s proposals, like the ability of the district to use security cameras in disciplinary issues, in an effort to keep moving negotiations forward.

There are about 110 custodians and maintenance workers for the district and nine bus mechanics.

The two unions representing Issaquah School District custodial and grounds maintenance workers and bus mechanics have filed unfair labor practice charges with the state’s Public Employment Relations Commission.

Jason Powell, the business agent for Teamsters Union Local 763, representing the custodians, filed the charges Oct. 17. The bus mechanics’ representative, Ron Harrell, with the International Association of Machinists, filed similar charges Oct. 28.

“The Issaquah School District is not negotiating with their employees,” Powell said. “The district is not negotiating in good faith. The district is demanding language concessions in our agreement that has nothing to do with economics and that our members will never agree to.”

Powell has said he has made several counter proposals to district officials’ initial proposals with little to no movement, which is why the charges were filed.

“We think we are making good progress,” said Sara Niegowski, district director of communications. “We are working through difficult issues and that takes time to get to resolution for both parties, and I think we will have resolution soon.”

Commission investigators will independently review each charge, Powell said.

According to Powell, if the commission determines the district is bargaining in bad faith, it can mandate that the district’s bargaining fulfill his request to set up six additional bargaining sessions and provide substantive proposals to him and his bargaining group.

If district officials are found, regarding either of the unions’ charges, in violation of state law by not passing through the cost of living adjustment and added health benefit increases, commission investigators can mandate that district officials pass through each, dating back to Sept. 1.

Neither union’s employees are receiving their cost of living adjustment nor their health benefits increase this year. Each employee is paying an additional $25 per month to compensate for district officials not passing those through, in addition to their out-of-pocket medical expenses, Powell said.

District officials denied passing on health benefits increases last year when the contract for educational assistants lapsed and the group was still bargaining. District officials then had to reimburse those employees that expense after a new contract was negotiated.

Both unions have been in negotiations with the district’s bargaining team since June and continued bargaining after their members’ contracts expired Aug. 31.

At issue in both contracts are contract language changes, such as the length of time disciplinary actions stay on employee records, and wages.

However, communications continued to break down between the unions and district officials after the bus mechanics rejected the district’s last and best offer Sept. 4.

On Sept. 9, Harrell and the district’s bargaining team members filed for mediation with the Public Employment Relations Commission.

Powell said he also filed with district officials for mediation with the commission Sept. 11.

Both unions have since met with district officials with a mediator.

“They took a position June 10 and have not moved from it,” Powell said. “That is bargaining in bad faith and that is why we have brought the unfair labor charges. The Issaquah School District has violated Washington state law.”

He said his union members continue to agree to some of the district’s proposals, like the ability of the district to use security cameras in disciplinary issues, in an effort to keep moving negotiations forward.

There are about 110 custodians and maintenance workers for the district and nine bus mechanics.

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