Chambersburg teachers hold rally as contract negotiations continue

Written by Ashley Books/The Chambersburg Public Opinion | Sep 27, 2017 6:53 AM

Chambersburg Area Education Association, a teacher's union, carry signs outside the Chambersburg Area School District meeting on Tuesday evening, September 26, 2017. CAEA, currently without a contract, held the rally prior to the CASD meeting. (Photo: Markell DeLoatch, Public Opinion)

(Chambersburg) -- Donning green shirts and holding signs which said "Bargain in good faith" or "Fair contract now!", teachers for the Chambersburg Area School District huddled around the administration building Tuesday evening to show the board they were serious.

More than 100 people came out to a rally organized by the Chambersburg Area Education Association which was held in response to negotiations to renew teachers' contracts which has been moving very slowly. 

Cindy Bowen, co-president for the association which represents about 550 teachers in the district, said currently teachers are working without a contract because the last one expired on June 30. Negotiations for a new contract started back in the middle of last March, and both sides have come together about 10 or 11 times since then.

The next round of negotiations is scheduled for Sept. 28. 

"We want the board to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the 10 of us who are representing the teacher's association, who are at that table negotiating the contract, are not just speaking for the 10 of us," Bowen said. "We're speaking for all of these folks. Every single one of them is who we are negotiating for." 

Although she couldn't give the specifics of the negotiations until a tentative agreement is reached, Bowen did say salary and health care are two of the biggest issues. 

Dana Baker, a member of the district's school board, said health care is a factor that makes all negotiations for any labor union tough. He added that several years ago, it wasn't an issue and now it is because it's expensive. 

Baker is not a board member sitting at the table during the negotiations, because his wife is part of the association. 

Carl Barton, another board member who is involved in the negotiations, said the amount of money the district has for the current year is fixed, and there are also issues with cost increases for pensions, medical insurance and retirement. As long as the district doesn't have much money, negotiations will be difficult, he added. 

Superintendent Joe Padasak also addressed the potential strike at Monday night's board meeting.

On Sept. 6, the association authorized its negotiating team to call a strike when and if the team deems it necessary, according to Marcia Bender, field director of the southern region for the Pennsylvania State Education Association.

Padasak apologized for students hearing about this in classrooms, and said if a strike does happen, the district is prepared to handle it. 

Baker said he would like to see negotiations end as soon as possible "within (the district's) financial capability." 

"They're making a statement," he said. "They want a contract. They want it resolved." 

Compromise is what needs to happen, according to Bowen, in order for an agreement to be reached. She added that when negotiations are dragged out, it hurts the community. 

"We want this contract settled, we want it done and we want to get on with the business of educating our kids because that's what we're here to do," she said. 

Reporter Jim Hook also contributed to this story. 

This article is part of a content-sharing partnership between WITF and Public Opinion Online.

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