Thursday, March 30, 2006

Shaking-Up Pittsburgh

In a surprising rejection of their own union's recommendation, teachers in Pittsburgh have narrowly rejected a proposed contract:
In a blow to the new union leadership and a troubled school district, Pittsburgh teachers and other professional employees last night voted down a tentative contract agreement saying the money wasn't good enough.

The school board had approved the contract hours earlier, saying it would keep labor peace while the district pursued the twin goals of righting its finances and boosting academic achievement.

Union members voted 869-763, with eight abstaining, to turn down the proposal. "Do it right next time!" one teacher yelled after the tally was announced.

The two-year deal would have given no raises to about half of those in the bargaining unit and modest raises to more senior members. It also would have paved the way for creation of new schools called accelerated learning academies, the centerpiece of Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Mark Roosevelt's plan to boost student achievement.

The 3,125 members of the bargaining unit -- teachers, counselors, nurses, psychologists and social workers -- had been working without a contract since June 30. Members at the top of the scale haven't had a raise in about 19 months, though others have had salary adjustments for moving along the salary scale.

The parties reached a tentative agreement Monday and the union leadership recommended approval of the proposal at last night's meeting at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall in Oakland.

Instead, union President John Tarka faced a sometimes-raucous crowd that criticized the financial terms. Mr. Tarka said members also had wanted more time to digest the proposal, explained to them for the first time last night.

"I'm clearly disappointed with the outcome," he said.

At one point, police entered the auditorium to make sure Mr. Tarka had control of the crowd.
Heh. I wonder if the fact about half of the union's membership weren't going to get any pay increase at all had anything to do with the results?
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