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L-L teacher union going public with case

Information picket, town hall meeting planned

LEHMAN TWP. – Along with a “town hall meeting” set for Oct. 12, the Lake-Lehman teacher union plans to take its case to the public through an informational picket before the Oct. 20 school board meeting, lead negotiator John Holland said. The union held similar pickets last school year.

The moves come as contract talks, stalled all summer, resume with negotiations slated for Monday and Wednesday. Holland said the town hall meeting is being held “to dispel any falsehoods that have been spread throughout the community.” But board member Moderno “Butch” Rossi questioned whether the agenda will include discussing terms of proposals, something the union has repeatedly chastised the board for doing.

“I’m not bringing negotiations into the public,” Holland said. “Butch Rossi doesn’t have to worry about our meeting; he should worry about his meetings.”

The union has accused the board of bad-faith bargaining by releasing its contract offers to the public. Basic points of the latest offer, made Aug. 27, are posted on the district Web site. The union filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the state regarding such tactics, and the board agreed in a formal statement that it would not release terms before giving them to union negotiators, but did not promise to stop releasing them after the union saw them.

Asked what he would do if audience members at the town hall meeting inquire about contract proposals, Holland said, “I’ll answer every question I believe is appropriate. That’s what I’m willing to do. I can’t know how I’ll answer until I hear the questions.”

Rossi, like other board members, said he thinks the public meeting is a good idea, and that he and other board members expect to show up. “We’re all taxpayers of the district.”

Holland said anyone is welcome to ask questions “as long as they are orderly and follow the rules of the meeting.”

Holland said the union has not decided if the informational pickets will become a recurring event or whether teachers from other unions will be encouraged to attend as a sign of solidarity, which happened last spring.

The contract expired in August 2006, and the chief sticking points have been salary and health-care benefits. In April the school board dropped a long-standing demand that teachers pay part of their health insurance premium, seeking to garner savings through increased deductibles and co-payments.

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