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home : local news : local news
September 20, 2017

9/12/2017 3:35:00 PM
Union narrowly rejects contract
Jackson Schools' stalemate continues, but no strike date yet
By the narrowest of margins, the unionized members of the Jackson City School District's classified, non-teaching employees rejected a proposed new contract in a ratification vote taken Monday night, Sept. 11.

Negotiating teams for the district and union had reached a tentative agreement on the terms of a new 3-year contract as the result of a long bargaining session conducted this past Saturday, Sept. 9. However, that agreement was subject to ratification by the union membership as well as the Jackson City Board of Education, which was scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday evening, Sept. 12.

Carla Potter, the president of local chapter 046 of the Ohio Association of Public School Employees union, told The Telegram Tuesday, Sept. 12 that the union membership had rejected the latest contract proposal by "a narrow margin." She then confirmed information that the newspaper had received earlier in the morning that the contract was voted down by a single vote. The Telegram's source - a bus driver who is a union member -- stated the actual vote was 33-32. Superintendent of Schools Phil Howard stated he had also been informed that the contract proposal was turned down by a single vote.

The union members previously authorized a possible strike when it rejected an earlier contract proposal on Sept. 6. However, the union has yet to issue the required 10-day notice setting an actual strike date, and Potter says this was not done during Monday night's ratification meeting. Both Howard and Potter state that both sides are apparently willing to try to schedule another meeting very soon in an attempt to reach a resolution to avert a strike.

The current 3-year labor contract between the district and Chapter 046 expired last June 30, but the employees have continued to work under the terms of the old contract while negotiations for a new pact have continued. Chapter 046 represents 67 unionized non-teaching employees, including bus drivers, cooks, custodians, maintenance personnel, and secretaries. An impasse was declared earlier in the process and a mediation session in late August with a federal mediator failed to produce an agreement.

Holzer Medical Center

Howard had previously been directed by the board at a board meeting on Aug. 26 to develop a "contingency plan" should there be a strike. Last week, Howard told The Telegram the district would be prepared if a strike occurred.

If a strike does happen, it's believed that it would be the first one in the history of the Jackson City School District.

Bus Driver Pay Issue

Due to negotiating rules, neither the district nor the union can publicly discuss specifics of the issues involved in the contract negotiations unless both sides agree to lift the curtain. Howard publicly stated at the Aug. 26 school board meeting he was willing to publicly discuss the issues. However, Potter later responded that this has not been done in the past.

In addition, The Telegram has learned that the contract stalemate deals with the issue of compensation for the bus drivers, according to a bus driver who spoke to the newspaper on the condition that his/her name not be used.

For their regular routes taking students to and from the schools, bus drivers are paid an hourly rate for a minimum of five hours regardless of the actual time it takes each day. The district has proposed some changes to this policy which many of the bus drivers oppose, according to the bus driver.

Bus drivers comprise the largest employee group among the classified employees.

At the school board meeting, details of the contract stalemate were made public. Former Jackson bus driver Maureen Poetker made a statement in support of the bus drivers' position with Superintendent Howard later providing a detailed rundown on the course of negotiations, the issues involved and the offers and counter-offers which have been made.

The Telegram will provide a detailed report on what transpired at the board meeting in Saturday's edition.

Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, September 13, 2017
Article comment by: Maureen Poetker

Pete Wilson you have your facts wrong! I am a former driver. I no longer driver. And I never mentioned any details about the emotions because I don't have them. Just know they are trying to take away from drivers. But now I know because Phil Howard breeched the contract and made it public. Don't be throwing me under the bus! No pun intended.

Posted: Wednesday, September 13, 2017
Article comment by: Wade Humphreys

1st person a child see's every day is the bus driver. Who we have entrusted to keep them safe while heading to school. The very last person they see is the bus driver who is entrusted to get them home safely. NO strike will every help in this small town hard feelings will abound for YEARS. Phil Howard and school board those bus drivers have way more interaction with the students than any of you will ever have hands down do the right thing and take care of them.

Posted: Tuesday, September 12, 2017
Article comment by: Dan Stewart

District better keep in mind the amount of other bus driver openings that are out there in other districts with better pay. Going to be cheaper to keep what you have happy instead of training a new batch with constant turnover.

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