COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A union representing 4,500 Columbus City Schools teachers announced its intent to go on strike.
The Columbus Education Association voted unanimously Thursday to issue a 10-day strike notice following months of contentious contract negotiations with the district’s Board of Education over issues like class size, functional heating and cooling, and working conditions. The current contract expires on Sunday, Aug. 21, one day before teachers are due back in the classroom.
“We don’t want to strike, but our students, teachers and community deserve a contract that supports and bolsters learning conditions,” said Regina Fuentes, spokesperson for the CEA. “The teachers of CCS want to be in the classroom, we want to be with our students, we love our students and the only reason we are doing any of this is because we want what is best for them.”
The union has until Aug. 11 to file for a strike, with the strike possibly starting Aug. 22 — two days before the first day of school.
The vote comes a week after the Board delivered its final contract offer to the teachers’ union on Thursday, July 28 — a “fair, comprehensive, and respectful” in the eyes of the Board but a “take it or leave it” deal that CEA President John Coneglio said the union will not accept, demanding continued negotiations.
“Our vote tonight should send a strong message to the Board to return to the bargaining table immediately,” said Fuentes.
The Board said in a statement they are disappointed CEA did not vote on the Board’s contract offer.
“A strike is disruptive and hurts our students most, especially after everything they have experienced over the last few years,” said the statement. “And that is why our team is well prepared for an alternate opening should a strike actually take place. Our students’ academic progress and social-emotional well-being will remain our top priorities.”
Still, the Board said it will continue to approach these negotiations and is committed to a resolution.
In an unfair labor practice charge filed with the State Employment Relations Board on Wednesday, the Board accused the CEA of publicly spreading misinformation about the specifics of the final contract offer.
For instance, Board of Education President Jennifer Adair said the union falsely claimed that the contract fails to address working conditions that can recruit and retain the best teachers. The Board’s offer, she said, included salary increases, stipends, paid family leave, greater flexibility for special education teachers writing individualized educations plans (IEP) and a continuing education program
“It is disappointing the CEA is not fully transparent with its own members and the public, and the board strongly felt we needed to address this misinformation,” Adair said.
Coneglio called the unfair labor charge “frivolous legal action” and urged the Board to schedule future negotiations with the union.
It’s not the first time an unfair labor practice charge has been filed between the warring parties. The CEA delivered a complaint to the State Employment Relations Board in early July, alleging the District violated its contract by reclassifying the positions of several of its educators.
The State Employment Relations Board, tasked with reviewing unfair labor claims in Ohio, will investigate both the Board’s and the union’s allegations to determine whether a violation occurred.