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Teachers, district go before ERMB in June

by Merrie Leininger

Three motions from both sides of the teacher contract negotiations fight were denied by the Employee Relations Management Board, so the next step is a full hearing in Carson City June 8.

In 1999, the Douglas County School District filed a claim accusing the Professional Teacher’s Association of unfair labor practices and walking out of negotiations Dec. 7, 1999. Negotiations started in March 1999 and the district claims the association did not meet the legal number of times – four – before declaring impasse.

The association promptly filed a counter claim alleging violations due to the district’s refusal to discuss ground rules and the district’s insistence that the association hand over its proposals first.

Motions filed by the association Jan. 31 and Feb. 22 to force the district into binding arbitration and for an expedited hearing were denied.

The district’s motion, filed March 6, asked to dismiss parts of the association’s counterclaim. It was also denied by the ERMB March 28.

On June 8, the ERMB will meet for a hearing on all issues in Carson City at the Legislature building, room 2134. ERMB commissioner Sherry Thomas said the board has 120 days after the hearing in which to issue a decision.

DCSD personnel director John Soderman said both sides have an opportunity to file further motions for 20 days after the board presents its decision.

The board could dismiss both claims and tell everyone to go back to the bargaining table or could tell everyone to go into mediation or binding arbitration.

“They’ll decide if anyone was bargaining in bad faith or not and they may tell us to go to an arbitrator or go back to the bargaining table,” Soderman said. “They can’t solve our contract issues, but they can tell us to go back to the table.”

Soderman said the ERMB is usually comprised of three people who are based in Las Vegas and who will hear from attorneys representing both sides.

Soderman said Bob Cox is representing the DCSD before the board and Sandra Lawrence is representing the teachers.

According to Soderman, a starting teacher with no experience and a bachelor’s degree starts at $28,446 before taxes in Douglas County. At the other end, a teacher with 20 years or more of experience and a master’s degree plus 32 credits earns $52,224 a year. A teacher with a doctorate earns $52,724.

All 458 teachers in the district also receive a 20 percent benefits package that includes health, accident insurance and retirement pay.

The teachers’ contracts were up June 30. Language in the contract and state law does not allow the teachers to strike. The “evergreen” language calls for all teachers to continue to work under the conditions of the expired contract until a new agreement is made.