Loyalsock is proof positive: Best Practices are recession-proof
It took two years, but leaders of the Loyalsock Township Education Association, Central Region, have proved that perseverance, membership solidarity and a good bargaining and communication plan are the keys to settling a good contract.
“It is not easy in this economic slump to stay united and keep your members from buying into the idea that we should compromise our goals,” LTEA president Kirk Bower said. “But in reality our school district, like many others, has a healthy fund balance, so we knew what we were asking for was not unreasonable.
“The hardest part is making sure your members don’t succumb to the doom and gloom attitude. We wanted to reduce steps, smooth out the scale, increase the starting salary and have some control over how the money was distributed on the salary schedule.”
The LTEA solidarity – settlement task force worked with their PSEA UniServ rep and communications specialist to fashion internal and external plans and convey their messages to the public and their members. The task force also established a working relationship with the local news media. “It is critical that our own members understand what was going on and what we were fighting for,” Bower said. “Beyond salary and benefits, we placed great emphasis on educating our members.”
The LTEA was prepared to go on strike over the salary schedule, but the specialized support of PSEA convinced the school board that reducing steps and increasing salary was vital for new hires.
“There was power in the message that they needed to raise their starting salary if they wanted to attract and retain new teachers,” PSEA UniServ rep Cary Kurtz said. We really set our goals and stuck to them. We refused to concede and this was the key.”
As a show of solidarity, LTEA members walked into and out of school each day in accordance with the contract. They also held informational pickets prior to board meetings and negotiating sessions.“I believe our success is proof that if an association is organized and has a solid strategy, including a communications plan, they can reach their goals,” Bower said.
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