The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers has asked a state court to stop the city school district from moving ahead with a plan that would require union members to pay toward their health insurance after the school district’s governing board unilaterally canceled the union’s contract last week.
The union’s court filing is a response to the School Reform Commission’s controversial move to cancel the entire teachers’ contract and seek declaratory judgment from the Commonwealth Court to do so. Among the PFT’s arguments against the SRC’s action is that the governing board was trying to bypass the traditional labor relations process for settling contract disputes.
“We feel the SRC’s attack last week was not only cowardly and disrespectful, but lacking legal merit,” PFT President Jerry Jordan said in a statement posted on the union’s website. “Today we are challenging all of the legal arguments made by the SRC to support its actions.”
The dispute erupted between the two parties Oct. 6 when the SRC announced it was canceling the school district’s contract with the PFT and mandating union members to contribute to their health benefits.
PFT leaders are also asking the Commonwealth Court—where the SRC and the state’s education secretary had filed a request for declaratory judgment after the contract action—to transfer the case to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, according to the union.
Union leaders argue that the dispute belongs in Philadelphia’s court system and that the education secretary was not a party to the dispute. The union wants the state agency off the case.
In making the unprecedented move, the financially-strapped district said it would save millions of dollars that will be redirected to classrooms.
The contract change does not affect union members’ salaries. Based on Monday’s announcement, union members will pay between $27 to $71 from each paycheck toward their health benefits, according to the district. The changes are expected to go into effect on Dec. 15.
The union and the district had been negotiating for 21 months and had not reached an agreement.
A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.