Timing is everything
Just as the Kentucky Education Association was poised to begin a radio and television campaign aimed at winning collective-bargaining rights for public employees in the state, the teachers’ union faced a five-day strike by its own staff.
The timing was no coincidence, said leaders of the KEA and its staff union, the Kentucky Education Association Staff Organization.
After all, noted Ellen Young, a secretary for the union’s Fort Worth office and the president of KEASO, the staff members who are working to enact collective bargaining for teachers deserve a timely contract. The old contract expired in October, and the two sides tentatively agreed to a new one last month.
“It was ironic to us and hypocritical that we should have such a titanic struggle getting our contract settled,” Ms. Young said.
Judith Gambill, the KEA president, said she wasn’t worried that the strike would blemish efforts by the 37,000-member affiliate of the National Education Association to pass a bargaining bill.
Currently, Kentucky permits school boards to bargain with teachers—a practice followed in Jefferson County and about a dozen other districts—but the bill would require it.
In the union’s corner is Gov. Paul Patton, a Democrat who has made a TV commercial arguing for collective bargaining for public employees. The KEA, meanwhile, is slated to air its own radio spots. The union was heavily involved in writing the bill, with help from the NEA.
All of the firepower could be for nought: The measure as of last week had yet to find a legislative sponsor.
If it does end up passing, KEA members can forget about following the lead of their own union’s staff. As Ms. Gambill took pains to point out, the bill would prohibit strikes.
— Ann Bradley
A version of this article appeared in the February 16, 2000 edition of Education Week