Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Pittsburgh School Unions Take Strike Votes

Two unions representing workers in the Pittsburgh Public School District are threatening to strike. Contracts covering members with AFSCME locals 297 and 2924 expired December 31, 2006. Tuesday night clerical workers with Local 2924 voted to authorize their negotiating committee to call a strike. On Saturday, August 23, the membership of Local 297 will take a strike vote. The workers are truck drivers, food service workers and custodians at city schools. Richard Caponi, Director of AFSCME District council 84, says after 18 months of negotiations the unions need to consider a number of different options. He says one of those options is to go on strike if a new agreement can't be reached.

Theresa Colaizzi, Chairwoman of the school district's negotiating committee, is quoted as saying the strike votes are a "play to disrupt" the start of the school year. She says the district was not notified by the union about their action. Caponi says the union is not required to notify the district if they take votes. He says the union believes they can resolve their issues at the bargaining table. Caponi says he doesn't know what Colaizzi means by her comment. He says the AFSCME members do not want to disrupt anything; they want to negotiate a contract that's fair to the members, the city and school board.

A bargaining session is planned for Local 297 on August 25, and for Local 2924 on September 2. Caponi says among the issues that will be discussed is the district's attempt to have more of a say so in layoffs of union members. He says it will not be a contract written solely by the Pittsburgh School District. Caponi says once people realize that, they will meet their goal.
Classes for city school students begin Thursday, August 28.

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