The Columbus Education Association legislature voted unanimously to issue 10 days notice of the union’s intention to strike at Columbus City schools after holding a meeting of members Thursday.
The notice of intent to strike comes after bargaining sessions between the union and the district ended in July, with the district making its “final offer” and no bargaining sessions scheduled for this month.
CEA spokeswoman Regina Fuentes said more than half of the union’s roughly 4,500 members – which include teachers and other support staff – attended the meeting. The union did not disclose the number of members of its legislative assembly. Voting was closed to the public.
Fuentes said the union was asking for smaller classes; full-time art, music and physical education teachers; functioning heating and cooling systems in schools; give teachers more planning time; a cap on the number of lesson periods per day; and “other working conditions that recruit and retain the best educators for our students.”
“Tonight’s vote is a vote of confidence in our bargaining team and our fight for safe, well-maintained, well-resourced schools in Columbus Public Schools,” Fuentes said.
Columbus City Schools: District school board files unfair labor practice charge against union
Fuentes said that from now until August 11, the union can file its 10-day notice of intention to strike with the state Employment Relations Board, and could end up going on strike. as of August 22, which is the first day that teachers return to work in the district. Union members would then meet on August 21 to vote on whether to officially launch a strike.
“We don’t want a strike, but our students, our teachers and our community deserve a contract that supports and strengthens learning conditions,” Fuentes said. “Our vote tonight should send a strong message to the board to return to the bargaining table immediately.”
In a statement late Thursday, Columbus City Schools Board President Jennifer Adair wrote that the board was disappointed that the CEA would not accept his contract offer and instead decided to vote on the 10-day notice of the intention of the union to strike. Adair added that the district is ready for an “alternative opening” in the event of a strike.
Adair said the board continues to be concerned that CEA “did not bargain in good faith” and will continue to commit to a resolution with the union, with the board planning to discuss next steps. steps with a federal mediator.
“A strike is disruptive and hurts our students the most, especially after all they have been through in recent years,” Adair said in the statement. “The academic progress and social-emotional well-being of our students will remain our top priorities.”
Columbus City schools say union spread ‘misinformation’
On Wednesday, the district announced it would file an unfair labor practice lawsuit against the union. Columbus City Schools Board President Jennifer Adair told a news conference that the charge was because the union spread misconceptions about the district’s “final” contract offer.
This included the union’s claims that the current final offer does not guarantee updated HVAC systems in every building, does not address smaller class sizes, and does not guarantee working conditions that recruit and retain the best educators for students.
Adair said the final offer addressed all of those issues, including that secondary school teachers should teach no more than 150 students a day and included a phased reduction in class sizes in younger grades.
“The council’s final offer also delivers on our commitment to ensure our buildings have electricity, heat, air conditioning and water to create a learning environment that supports student and teacher well-being.” , Adair said, with the district releasing statements. previously, it was using federal COVID-19 money to finish updating HVAC systems in schools.
Adair added that the offer made to the union in late July was not the district’s “final and definitive offer”.
Look back: Columbus schools say they have made a ‘final offer’ on teachers’ pact
Fuentes said Thursday that the union has not heard directly from the district in regards to scheduling dates to return to the bargaining table. Fuentes added that there’s still a chance negotiations could drag on past the start of the school year if the district resumes negotiations, although the union’s goal is to start the year normally.
“Columbus City Schools teachers want to be in the classroom,” Fuentes said. “We love our students and the only reason we do all of this is because we want the best for them.”
Reporters Megan Henry and Cole Behrens contributed to this story.