With just days left in the current contract between the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation and Teamsters Local 215, negotiations remain deadlocked despite both sides remaining hopeful. However, if the June 30th deadline passes, the school board could stop recognizing the Teamsters as the representatives.
The contract between the EVSC and Teamsters Local 215 applies to five employee groups: bus drivers, secretaries, custodians, special education assistants and bus aides. It amounts to roughly 680 employees.
The two sides have met four times to negotiate, the most recent meeting occurring on June 3rd. For the EVSC, the contract dispute boils down to two issues, the first issue being the union security clause.
“We have contract language that says employees have an ongoing and enforceable obligation to either pay union dues or a representation fee and we, as a school board, have an obligation to collect those dues,” said Susan Traynor Chastain, the school board’s chief negotiator.
That contract language, otherwise known as the union security clause, has been in the contract for three decades, according to Chuck Whobrey, the president of Teamsters Local 215. However, Chastain contends that language coupled with recent changes to state employment laws, could leave the school board vulnerable to litigation.
“If we have an employee that didn’t pay and the Teamsters asked us to enforce that language and the employee has refused, the employee would be faced with the situation that we would have to discipline or discharge that employee,” Chastain said. “We’ve been advised that some employees have spoken with the ACLU and they would file suit against the corporation for us taking that action.”
EVSC officials did not name those employees at Monday’s press conference. After consulting with the union’s legal team, Whobrey believes the school board would not be breaking the law if those union dues aren’t collected. Furthermore, the school board wouldn’t be forced to fire an employee if that were to occur, Whobrey said.
The second issue causing a stalemate between the EVSC and the Teamsters centers around who should have the final say in matters relating to employee discipline. The school board believes it should have the power to make a final determination — not a third-party arbitrator.
“We believe the elected government officials should make what they believe is the best decision for the community,” Chastain said. “An arbitrator may apply a different standard and they don’t have an investment in the community.”
EVSC Superintendent Dr. David Smith echoed Chastain’s sentiments.
“Is it okay in the public’s eyes for somebody in Boca Raton, Florida or Chicago or Cleveland to say, ‘No that person is going to teach for you?’ Is that okay?” Dr. Smith said.