Collective bargaining refers the entire process of negotiation between a group of employees and employers with an aim of reaching an agreement to regulate working conditions (Chamberlain & James, 2010). Usually, the interests of the employees are collectively presented by representatives of a trade union to which they belong. The agreements reached stipulate different situations such as wage scales, grievance mechanisms, overtime, working hours, salary levels, training, health and safety. A union may agree to negotiate with a single employer or may include a group of businesses. The collective bargain acts as a labor contract between several unions and employers. The collective bargain process consists of negotiations made between any representatives of a union and employers. Typically, the parties involved refer to a result of the negotiation referred to as a collective employment agreement or a collective bargaining agreement. Over the past few years, there have been numerous issues regarding collective bargain and the Strongsville teachers strike one of them.
A certain group of teachers from Ohio engaged in a violent strike that left children in the middle of a very heated dispute. The conflict existed between the Strongsville school board and a public sector board. The school board was debating with the public sector board over weighing fiscal considerations. The dispute was based on the benefits that the management felt were unsustainable but which the union felt were non-negotiable (Greg, 2013). Following the dispute, the learning process was paralysed, and some of the Strongsville Education Association (SEA) members started engaging in illegal and provocative activities. In one instance, it was reported that the board members barricaded a parking lot of the negotiating site where they refused the school board members to leave. Also, the SEA members carried out heavy protests at the homes of school board members where at least two teachers were arrested during the first week of the strike (New York Times, 2014). One of the teachers was arrested for alleged reckless operation of a motor vehicle while the other was arrested for refusing police orders not to block the entrance to a school.
The Strongsville Education Association was engaging in all the nasty behaviours due to several reasons. Several of the concessions sought by the school board were a three-year automatic salary increase for the teachers guaranteeing them automatic salary increment regardless of their performance (Greg, 2013). In addition, they wanted a conversion of the nine points three percent State Teachers Retirement pension pick-up where the district paid a portion of the employees share of the pension in addition to the already fourteen percent employer-share that was already being paid to a nine point three percent salary increase. The union expected a ten point three percent salary increase in exchange for converting the pension pick-up. The teachers also wanted the district to pay a one hundred percent of dental premiums. The teacher’s monthly health premiums were also to be increased from ten to fifteen percent including a one hundred and seventy-five family cap. Ideally, the SEA wanted the use of evaluations for layoffs and the utilization of seniority as a tie-breaker. The SEA sought the concessions to address the increase in fiscal challenges that were outlined in the districts December 2012 five-year forecast (Greg, 2013).
The public sector union used both economic and ethic pressure to prevail in the dispute. They stated that the teachers who were on strike would not be paid since the days that they were off from work they were supposed to be working. Also, the teachers were to be denied insurance benefits for the time that were on strike. According to Ohio laws striking employee are not allowed to be paid any insurance benefits. As a result, all insurance benefits were stopped after the board notified the insurance administrator to halt board-paid benefits as soon as the strike began (Greg, 2013). The SCS would also hire new teachers since schools would not be closed to ensure that the required school year was completed on time. The substitute teachers would be expected to meet the required standards as per stipulated by the Ohio Revised Code and by the Department of Education. During the entire strike substitute teachers would be paid at least $175 per day including other benefits such as medical benefits. Also, the board of education would hire a security firm in a bid to ensuring that there was a safe environment for the staff and the children during the entire period of the strike. The security personnel would not be allowed to carry any weapons apart from communication gadgets.
The Strongsville dispute has been already resolved. It was settled after eight weeks of paralyzed learning in Ohio school district after the board unanimously agreed to a new teacher contract. The teachers had been previously offered a competitive compensation package and a contract proposal that in all ways reflected the economic realities, but they declined the offer. As soon as the board met, all of the five members voted to approve the contract and soon after the news were made public. The school board president also stated that the substitute teachers would be given a chance to take leave of the students formally. The contract that was to be effective from July 31, 2015, stipulated that the 9.3% percent contribution that was paid to the teachers by the district through the retirement fund be directed to the salaries. That meant that the teacher’s salary would be increased by 10.3%. The contract would also restore raises that had been frozen for the year 2011-2012 school year and would give teachers who are not eligible for a minimum payment of $1200 in September 2015 and 2016. The highest teacher salary would range from $60975 to $93827 for the teachers with a Ph.D.
Third parties played a critical role in solving the Strongsville dispute. One of the players was Mayor Thomas Perciak, who stated that for the strike to end there must be one side that must be willing to bend. Other parties include the substitute teachers and the security personnel. The third parties may not have been at the negotiation table, but they did play a role in ensuring that the students stayed in school while the teachers and the union solved the bargaining dispute. In retrospect, this dispute could have been resolved in a more constructive fashion. The teachers should not have allowed the strike to go on for an extended period. Also, they should have taken the first offer that also offered them a competitive compensation package. No illegal activities should have been carried out on the side of the teachers, but they should only have led peaceful demonstrations to avoid arrests. However, the strike bore fruits, and the collective bargain was worth the effort.
Chamberlain, N., & James, W. K. (2010). Collective Bargaining. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Greg, L. R. (2013, March 25). Strongsville Teachers Strike: Collective Bargaining Run Amok! United States of America.
New York Times. (2014). Limiting Rights: A Hit to Collective Bargaining. New York: The Editorial Board.