West Shore teachers reject school district’s last contract offer, authorize strike
CUMBERLAND COUNTY, Pa. – West Shore teachers have rejected the West Shore School Board’s last contract offer. They also voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike.
The strike authorization means that the bargaining team will be able to call a strike at any time, as long as it provides the district with the legally mandated 48-hour notice.
“Our teachers spoke loud and clear today,” said Kevin Downs, a middle-school science teacher and president of the 559-member West Shore Education Association. “We hope that the school board hears them.”
Teachers have been working for 747 days under the terms of their expired contract.
“Teachers’ overwhelming support to authorize a strike if necessary shows strong solidarity for our bargaining team,” Downs said. “The district had been trying to divide us by offering increased salaries for some of our members, but at a cost to our newest members and those who have been here the longest. In the end, our members decided to stand strong together and not allow ourselves to be divided.”
Other reasons for rejecting the proposal included changes to the salary schedule that would have created significant hardship for our members in future contracts. Any short-term gain would have been offset in the future. The district had also been demanding a reduction of the starting salary for teachers hired for this school year, which would have sent a message to those new teachers that their hard work was less valuable.
The school board’s decision to interfere with the voting process also backfired.
The association leadership informed the district that it had scheduled today’s vote on the school board’s last proposal. At the August 22 negotiation session, the district refused to engage in discussion and canceled the August 30 meeting. But rather than wait for today’s membership vote, the school board blasted district parents and staff with emails and phone calls and discussed the contract in detail at a September 9 special meeting.
The association’s negotiators will be contacting the board to set negotiations dates.
“The team really appreciates the support of our members,” said Peg Wrigley, a special-education teacher at Cedar Cliff High School and the association’s bargaining chair. “West Shore teachers are standing together for a fair contract and I look forward to reaching an agreement that best meets the needs of our teachers, our students and our community.”