STOW: Discussions between Stow-Munroe Falls City School officials and district bus drivers continue to face roadblocks since June when the district announced its plans to possibly outsource busing.
The most recent challenge to negotiations has been back-to-back grievances issued by the district and the drivers’ union -- the Classified Employee Association.
School officials on Aug. 29 filed an unfair labor practice against the Stow-Munroe Falls Classified Employee Association for allegedly engaging in illegal picketing during district functions.
“Unfortunately some of the members of the [Ohio Education Association] classified association participated in illegal picketing at two of our school functions at the beginning of the school year,” Superintendent Russell Jones said. “They were handing out flyers that were not flattering to the district or the board.”
Jones said the picketing was illegal because the group did not give the school board 10 days written notice in advance of the school function.
According to the case filing with the State Employment Relations Board, without the 10 days notice, school officials were unable to address the union’s issues or properly prepare for the picketing to ensure the safety of students and the public.
In addition, the district is facing an unfair labor practice charge for its alleged "hostile approach to bargaining and unreasonable delay" filed by the Classified Employee Association on Friday.
According to the grievance documents, the classified workers association is alleging the district has failed to bargain in good faith within 30 days of the contract’s expiration, and the “hostile” approach of the district interferes with the union’s ability to advocate for its members conditions of employment.
Union representatives declined to comment on the grievance.
Drivers continue to work behind the wheel since the 2013-2014 school year began on Aug. 26 despite their contract expiring in June.
Jones said the district is ready to begin contract discussions with the drivers, but the process has been slowed by a few factors.
“We were ready to negotiate with them last spring, however, they were trying to decide whether they wanted to stay with the OEA or the Teamsters,” Jones said. “Their decision making process in that who was going to represent them really slowed the process of negotiations for several months to begin with.”
The association has decided to be represented by the Ohio Education Association.
Jones said, “they also decided to send us two pages of ground rules for collective bargaining that they were demanding that we agree to."
Jones said he found the ground rules to be “condescending and unnecessary."
“We stepped back and said that they are not coming to the table with the kind of attitude that we are coming with that seeks a new contract that meets the interest of both parties,” Jones said. “They are coming at us with picketing and the demand for ground rules and now unfortunately they have taken their cause to the media and it doesn’t surprise me."
“We are all adults and we think that we can set the ground rules of how we are going to treat one another,” Jones said. “It’s just indicative of their negative approach to the relationship.”
The associated parties are scheduled to meet next week to continue discussions on contract negotiations.
“We have given them some dates of when our team is available to sit down and those fall within the next week or two,” Jones said. “We are ready to go. We just want to make sure that they are going to stop the illegal picketing and don’t demand that we have these condescending ground rules to meet.”
When conversations officially begin, Jones has said that if busing were outsourced, a stipulation for a deal with a potential company would be to employ the drivers already on staff.
“We want to make sure that all of our employees are kept whole as a result of this and that all of our employees be employed by whichever company that we choose,” Jones said in a written statement last month.