LEHMAN TOWNSHIP – Members of the Lake-Lehman Education Association spent a frigid three hours walking a picket line Monday morning.
It was the first and last day the teachers will spend picketing this year, though union negotiators said that barring a breakthrough during the next two weeks, strikers would be back on the line Jan. 5.
Negotiators for the teachers and the Lake-Lehman School Board held a hastily scheduled session Saturday in an attempt to avert the strike that started Monday morning, but the talks did not progress far enough for the union to call off the scheduled picket.
“Our meeting on Saturday did nothing at all,” said John Holland, Pennsylvania State Education Association regional field director and union negotiator. He said the board essentially told the union why they shouldn’t strike. Teachers showed up outside the Lehman-Jackson Elementary School Monday morning in single-digit temperatures and sub-zero wind chills. They stayed on the picket lines for only three hours because of the weather, Holland said.
“I’m not going to risk anyone’s health,” Holland said. He said teachers will remain on strike but will not hit the picket line today because of a scheduled union leadership strategy meeting. With the school district then closed for Christmas break through Jan. 4, he said teachers will not picket again until Jan. 5. How long they’ll remain on strike is undetermined, Holland said.
Under state law, teachers can strike two times in one school year, with the first ending in time to complete 180 school days by June 15 and the second ending in time to complete school by June 30.
Lake-Lehman teachers have gone on strike every school year since their contract expired in August 2006.
When teachers went on strike in 2007, they stayed on the picket lines from Oct. 15 through Nov. 8, encompassing 19 school days. Earlier that year, they were on strike from May 29 to June 4.
The next negotiating session is scheduled for Jan. 13, although Holland noted the union is willing to meet any time before that time, including over the holidays.
The main issues in the contract dispute continue to be health insurance costs and salary increases.
Messages left for school board solicitor Charles Coslett and district superintendent Jim McGovern were not returned Monday.