An official strike notice from the Wissahickon Education Alliance-Support (WEA-S) was presented to the Wissahickon School Board on Oct. 22.
According to the District website, the chief negotiator for the District made contact with the negotiator for the WEA and requested a bargaining session for Tuesday, Oct. 23.
However, a letter from the WEA's chief negotiator, Andrew Muir, dated Oct. 24, shows little movement towards compromise between the two parties.
If compromise and an agreement reached is not reached, the union has a strike planned to begin at 6 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 29.
Letter from Muir follows:
Director, Bureau of Mediation
pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry
Labor and Industry Building
Harrisburg, PA 17121
October 24, 2012
Dear Mr. Gross:
Although until this point I have been working with one of your mediators, he seems to be having difficult time trying to persuade the Wissahickon School Board to accept the compromise report. Considering that we are only days away from striking, I am contacting you for your assistance. However, how you intervene will likely determine whether a settlement is reached, which is the only way the strike will be avoided.
If you agree to intervene and attempt to prevent a strike at Wissahickon, you need not and should not call a meeting of the parties because one party, the WEA, has already agreed to compromise terms officered by your Departmnent. In other words, there is no need for you to meet with the WEA as the mediator had hoped to do because we agree with your Department's compromise report. Instead, I suggest your Department demand a meeting with the party causing the strike, the Wissahickon School Board.
The Wissahickon School Board should be encouraged to avoid a strike which it can only do by adopting the terms of the compromise report. As you know, your Department issued the compromise report only after a Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board Hearing Officer (Fact FinderO held a hearing. In that hearing he held oral arguments from both parties including expert testimony regarding the excellent financial position the School Board enjoys ($23 million dollars unspent despite no tax increase in six years), and accepted evidence offered in support of each side's position. That compromise report continues to address all of the outstanding issues and provides a means to prevent the strike. The reality is that the School Board has needlessly caused the pending strike by refusing to adopt the compromise report and by threatening to subcontract out every single job. We suspect the motive for the School Board's behavior is a political agenda designed by a few School Board members to attack, rather than reward, hard working employees.
Another suggestion is what you Department should not do as a means to "prevent a strike." That is, it should not to offer to create a second compromise report from the same Department. Do so would only serve to unfairly advance the School Board's position, take more from employees, and create an absurd situation: the WEA reluctantly agrees to a compromise offered by your Departmetn (the facet finding report) potential followed by the School Board endorsing a second and different compromise offered by your department (a mediator's report). That kind of situation, offering reports that cancel each other out, will surely not help the parties reach a contract or prevent a strike from taking place at Wissahickon. Instead, both parts will declare that they have accepted different compromises offered by the same Department to the same conflict.
A negotiated School Board compromise is also not an option as often is the case in normal situations. You should be aware that the Wissahickon School Board has demonstrated that it has no intention of compromising and reaching a fair agreement. I am afraid quite the opposite is true. Of course, this is why we are now asking for your involvement.
The WEA asks that you meet with the School Board and recommend the following
(1) The School board should accept the compromise report (issued by your employer, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry), and
(2) The School Board should rescind the resolution it passed which served to begin the process of contracting out every single support staff job.
In addition to the above, please consider the following:
(1) Sultanik offered to "meet" with the WEA on the one hand presumably for the purpose of working together, but states on the other hand that in any meeting that takes place the School Board will not only continue to refuse to compromise but will also seek to revert to its original proposal. The WEA is not attending that ind of meeting.
(2) The School Board's first proposal was so bad that it demands an additional $2 million dollars in employee givebacks. That is not compromising; instead, that is heaping $2 million on top of the concession the compromise report required of the employees.
(3) Furthermore, everybody knows that Sultanik's offer to "meet" was not a genuine officer to compromise. Instead, it is a cover for what he really seeks to do on the School Board's behalf: attack employees. That kind of disingenuous tactic only increases the chances we will all face a long strike. In addition, EVERYBODY also knows Sultanik was brought in by the School Board in an attempt to pick a fight with the employees and to cause a strike.
(4) Allow me to point out what Sultanik is not telling people. He is not telling the public the truth about what will really happen under his scheme. The truth is that under his scheme the School Board and the WEA can put the original proposals on the table. I cannot imagine that Sultanik really thinks that the School Board can resubmit the original proposal without the WEA resubmitting its original proposal.
One must ask how far apart would the parties be under Sultanik scheme. $3 million with each employee facing the loss of his or her job? But that is precisely where negotiations would begin again were the WEA to fall for Sultanik's deceitful scheme. Sultanik's scheme would inflame rather than resolve the dispute. The strike would roar on for many weeks. Yet how far apart are we under the compromise report? The answer is part of the reason why we seek your help.
(5) Please ask yourself what Sultanik and the Wissahickon School Board really want to do. They want to engage in illegal regressive bargaining (which ironically would of course result in Unfair Practice Charge) by placing subcontracting on the table as a proposal so that the employees are so scared of losing their jobs that they will accept less than the cost of living increases the comprise report offered (2.5%) and so the upwards of 40 people and their families would lose health care coverage immediately.
Let's stop pretending Sultanik's offers to "meet" are anything more than a ruse.
(6) Instead of playing into the School Board and Sultanik's schemes, which so far have cause the Association to schedule a strike, what really needs to happen here is what I suggested earlier. That is, you should set up a meeting with the Wissahickon School Board for the purpose of asking the School Board whether it chooses to suffer through a long strike or whether it is willing to reconsider and accept the only chance of settlement. That one chance of settlement is accepting the terms of the compromise fact finding report (note: the report can be accepted as is and the parties can iron out some details if things like changing a few dates are in fact the issue, which I doubt).
That you for consider our request. Please understand how urgent this request is and that we are asking you to replace the current mediator effective immediately. Also, please understand that unless you intervene and agree to meet with the Wissahickon School Board, at this point, the strike will commence as scheduled on Monday, October 29, at 6:00 a.m.
Please advise whether your Department and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will continue to support the compromise report it recommended, and if so, whether that Commonwealth, through you, is willing to meet with the Wissahickon School Board to encourage the School School to rescind its resolution to subcontract out all support jobs, accept the terms of the compromise report, and avoidd the strike.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Very Truly Yours
Andrew W. Muir
PSEA-NEA UniServ Representative