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West Shore School District teachers reject contract proposal, authorize strike if needed

West Shore School District teachers rejected the latest contract proposal from the district and authorized their union’s bargaining team to call for a strike if needed Friday night. 

The strike authorization means the bargaining team could call a strike at any time, as long as it gives the district 48-hours notice, the association said in a written statement.  

When reached for comment, Kevin Downs, a middle-school science teacher and president of the 559-member association, said the union is not disclosing the vote count. 

Downs said the association was pleased by the vote, however. 

In a statement the association released following the vote, Downs said

“Our teachers spoke loud and clear today. We hope that the school board hears them.”

The union’s bargaining team said it would reach out to the school board to set up new negotiation meeting dates to try to avoid a strike. 

When contacted by phone Friday night, school district spokesman Ryan Argot said he could not immediately comment on the vote, and told PennLive he could be reached via email. 

Downs said a primary reason for the rejection was a change in the pay schedule proposed by the district, which would have caused “significant hardship” for union members in future contracts.

The district also demanded a lower starting salary for teachers hired for this school year, “which would have sent a message to those new teachers that their hard work was less valuable,” he said. 

The school board previously said at the association’s request, it submitted a “best and final offer” to the union’s bargaining team on July 8. 

The union responded with a counter-proposal six weeks later, which the school board said “deviated significantly from the district’s ‘best and final offer.”

The two proposals differed so much, the board said it was left with no place to continue discussions.

To keep the public informed, the district shared details of the offer during a special meeting that took place in the Cedar Cliff High School auditorium on Sept. 8. 

The association was not pleased about the meeting held at Cedar Cliff High School, and union members rallied outside. 

Union president Kevin Downs said the board had interfered with the process by publicly airing proposed contract details. 

Still, the association’s negotiations team presented the district’s offer to its members for a vote on Friday night. 

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