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East Allegheny's teacher union files unfair labor charges against district

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Friday, June 6, 2014, 2:00 p.m.
 

East Allegheny School District's teachers union has filed unfair labor charges against the district with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board.

In a statement issued through the Pennsylvania State Education Association on Friday, the East Allegheny Education Association said the charge was filed on May 30, alleging the district violated the state Public Employe Relations Act “as a result of discipline issued to association president Cheryl Ihnat in the form of a letter of reprimand signed by Donald MacFann, assistant to the superintendent.”

EAEA alleged the letter from MacFann, who is East Allegheny High School principal, “was the culminating event of a pattern of illegal and discriminatory actions taken against Ms. Ihnat and the association for engaging in protected concerted activity.”

The teachers union charged MacFann with intimidating Ihnat “with questions and accusations regarding her comments” at a school board meeting.

“We teachers have been exercising our rights under the law,” said Ihnat, a longtime school counselor. “I have been speaking at school board meetings about our dissatisfaction with the board's bargaining behavior.”

Ihnat said all of her comments at board meetings were from public records.

“I just reiterated information I had received from the board minutes as well as previous board meetings and right-to-know requests,” the EAEA president said.

District officials referred inquiries for comment to labor attorney Michael A. Palombo, who said, “I have not had a chance to review” the EAEA's filing.

EAEA members have been working under a contract that expired at the end of the 2011-12 school year.

On May 12, the East Allegheny teachers union said it had notified Superintendent Roger A. D'Emidio that its 128 members would strike if a contract is not reached by Sept. 2, the first day for students to report in the 2014-15 school year.

“The district continues to operate with a structural deficit and state funding remains relatively flat,” D'Emidio said on May 12. “We have not yet received a proposal from the association that the district could afford.”

The notice came after a three-hour bargaining session on May 6. On the district's website, officials said, “it was an amicable meeting that ended with no movement.”

“It was amicable up to a point,” Ihnat said. “(The teachers) had gone into a caucus. We anticipated going back but they abruptly ended the meeting.”

That district statement was accompanied by a reference to the average “total cost of (an) experienced teacher, 201 314,” of $93,866 after 16 years of service, with average raises of $8,100 in years 14,15 and 16.

Ihnat said the teachers union still stands by the state fact-finder's report it accepted and the school board rejected in 2012. That report is available through the state Department of Labor and Industry website.

“The association has proposed additional concessions that have not been accepted (by the school district),” Ihnat said. “We know we're not a rich district, but it's a matter of coming to the table in good faith.”

The two sides agreed to meet again on Tuesday, the day after the board's scheduled 7 p.m. voting meeting.

The agenda for Monday's meeting includes a final vote on a $32.68 million 2014-15 budget with no change in the real estate tax rate of 27.54 mills.

The teachers union has opined that parents back their cause. Signs outside homes across North Versailles Township, East McKeesport, Wall and Wilmerding express support for the teachers.

“The board might want to silence the teachers and the parents, but our students and this community are far too important to let that happen,” Ihnat said.

The teachers' statement came just a few hours before commencement exercises for the high school class of 2014 at Churchman Stadium.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

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