Cincinnati Remains An A.F.T. District; Others Face Ballots

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Defeating the challenging union by a two-to-one margin, the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers (cft) last week retained its right to represent the district's 3,100 teachers in collective-bargaining negotiations.

With 2,630 of the teachers voting, the American Federation of Teachers (aft) affiliate won 1,821 votes, compared with 809 votes gathered by the Cincinnati Teachers' Association (cta), an affiliate of the National Education Association (nea).

First Since 1977

The representation election, which was the first to be held in the district since 1977, was one of several scheduled this month byteachers' unions around the country.

The nea is also challenging the aft in Dade County, Fla., the nation's fourth-largest school system, which includes Miami. The vote was scheduled for last week.

Other aft-nea confrontations are planned in Albuquerque, N.M., and Corpus Christi, Texas. Union officials in Illinois also say they expect some representation elections next spring.

Such challenges occur regularly, officials of the nea and the aft say, usually for essentially the same reasons that an incumbent politician is challenged by another candidate.

Sometimes, as in Cincinnati, salaries are the major campaign issue. In Dade County, "professionalism" was one of the key areas of dispute. And although more challenges might be expected in economically difficult times, union officials say that this seems not to be so.

"It's similar to politics," said Charles Iannello, an aft national field representative who worked with the Cincinnati teachers and in many other representation elections around the country. "It's obvious that you try to take a look and assess and see where you might stand a reasonable chance of victory."

Although it is unusual to have representation elections going on simultaneously in several major districts, the phenomenon itself is "routine," said Philip Kugler, special assistant for organizing to Albert Shanker, aft's president. "The number of elections totally has been relatively stable over the last few years."

According to nea figures, the nea and the aft faced each other in 43 representation battles last year, with the nea winning 23 elections involving 11,000 teachers and the aft winning 20 elections involving 8,000 teachers.

The nea took over six bargaining positions formerly held by the aft; the aft won four units from the nea, according to the nea figures.

In general, Mr. Kugler said, the aft decides whether it should challenge an nea affiliate by assessing the strength of its membership, its distribution in a district's schools, and other local factors.

If officials do not foresee a reasonable chance of victory, they do not challenge.

In some of the recent challenges, Mr. Kugler said, "It appears that there are some rather different strategic considerations coming into play." In both Dade County and Cincinnati, he noted, the incumbent aft locals are strong enough to turn back a challenge.

Signatures Gathered

In Cincinnati, the election was held after the cta gathered signatures from 50 percent of the district's teachers on petitions calling for a representation election.

Money was the major campaign issue, Mr. Ianello said. Although the cft has "negotiated some rather substantial contracts" in the five years that it has bargained on behalf of the city's teachers, the cta argued that greater gains would be possible under its leadership.

In Dade County, the Dade Teachers' Association (dta), an nea affiliate, is challenging the United Teachers of Dade (utd) for the right to represent the 18,300 teachers, substitute teachers, and para-professionals in the Miami area.

Job security and fringe benefits have been the main issues in the tda's efforts to unseat the aft affiliate, which has represented Miami's teachers since collective bargaining began in Florida in 1974.

Last week, in the culmination of a two-year organizing effort, the dta took out a full-page advertisement in the Miami Herald castigating the utd for supporting a tough new teacher-evaluation system. It argued that the new system, now be-ing tested in 16 schools, threatens teachers' job security. (See Education Week, Dec. 8, 1982.)

The nea affiliate has also campaigned against Pat L. Tornillo Jr., the president of the utd for the past 20 years. The dta has argued that it is time for new leadership within the Miami teaching force.

The nea local has only 1,200 members against the incumbent utd's 8,000. But in the past three weeks, the dta made campaign phone calls to 14,000 of those eligible to vote in last week's election.

Ned K. Hopkins, an nea employee who has spent two years in Miami organizing the challenge, said his polls show that the election would be ''very close."

Dade County teachers were scheduled to vote on the representation issue last Wednesday and Thursday. The votes were expected to be counted by last Friday evening.

Voting This Week

The 2,100 teachers in Corpus Christi will vote this week to decide if they want to replace the city's system of proportional representation of different teacher groups in consultations with the school system, and if so, which group they want as their exclusive representative. Collective bargaining is prohibited in Texas.

The election is being held as a result of the most recent in a series of policy changes, dating back to 1978, by the Corpus Christi school board.

Before that, the Corpus Christi Classroom Teachers (ccct), an nea local, had spoken for the city's teachers. When the aft affiliate protested, the board dropped the exclusive-representation system, replacing it with a proportional-representation system. An election was held, which the aft local won.

Last year, a new school board again dropped the exclusive-representative system.

"The teachers were none too happy about the proportional-representation idea, because the different teacher groups could never agree on things and it seemed the school board was playing one against the other," said Louis S. Bolieu, an official of the Corpus Christi-American Federation of Teachers.

"The school board called this election in an effort to shut teachers up," charged Mary T. Hepp, the director of the ccct "They were tired of teachers complaining in public."

A Challenge in Albuquerue

A representation election is also expected in Albuquerque next spring, according to union officials there. Currently, the district's 4,500 teachers are represented by the Albuquerque Federation of Teachers, an aft affiliate.

The nea affiliate, nea-Albuquerque, plans to begin gathering teachers' signatures on a petition in January, according to Barbara Van Dongen, president of the group. Under the agreement in Albuquerque, the group must get 30 percent of the teachers to sign the petition calling for an election.

The nea group cites "a general failure of the aft group to represent teachers adequately," Ms. Van Dongen said. Teachers have experienced some financial loss since 1979, when the aft defeated the nea affiliate in a representation election. She noted also that since Albuquerque is one of the few aft locals in the state, there has been "a lack of unity" with the other teachers' groups. This, she said, may have hurt education funding for the entire state. Other local contract issues also figure into the election; the federation, Ms. Van Dongen said, has not adequately addressed the problem of teachers' involvement in education-policy decisions.

Defends Record

The Albuquerque Teachers Federation defends its record; the union has earned salary gains for teachers of 11 percent, 11.5 percent, and 8 percent in the last three contracts, according to Jewel L. Hall, the incumbent union's president. Moreover, she added, the contracts that it has negotiated brought into being teacher-management committees that work on policy issues.

In Illinois, the Illinois Federation of Teachers expects to challenge the representation rights of several dis-tricts in the central section of the state, according to Charles Burdeen, director of communication for the 45,000-member organization.

In the past three years, 76 Illinois districts have shifted their allegiance from the Illinois Education Association to federation locals. However, in many cases, Mr. Burdeen said, no representation election was necessary; the entire local simply decided to make the change.

The competition for membership in Illinois has implications that extend beyond the salaries of individual teachers, Mr. Burdeen noted. With the two organizations having about the same number of members, and the rivalry between the two groups intense, it is difficult for teachers to assert themselves politically, as a group.

"It's a serious game," he said.

Vol. 02, Issue 14

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