Amid pay protest, union urges teachers not to go extra mile

The union that represents Brevard County teachers is encouraging its members to curtail any unpaid school-related work done outside of the classroom, to include support of clubs and other extra-curricular activities.
To protest the school board’s proposed 1.5 percent pay increase, the Brevard Federation of Teachers is calling on all teachers to “work to the contract” starting Jan. 5.
“That means we are going to put in our eight hours and that’s it,” federation president Dan Bennett said.
The union’s vice president, Anthony Colucci, told the school board last week that teachers “will continue this campaign until we have a favorable contract.”
Bennett said there’s no way to know how many teachers will take the call to action. The effort is one of the only forms of recourse the union can take against the school board, because Florida law prohibits public employees – including teachers – from striking or initiating work slowdowns by calling in sick en masse.
“Walking off the job or reporting to work late is not an appropriate action and it comes with harsh consequences,” according to the Florida Education Association, the statewide teachers union.
Union leaders are also hoping to rally citizen support through social media, email campaigns and speaking at school board meetings.
“Really, our power is PR,” Bennett said. “Our power is to take the case to the people.”
The teacher’s union and the school board have been at impasse since October, when Brevard Public Schools officials said the 1.5 pay raise was their “best and final” offer.
But teachers say the offer is too low. “We’re not going to settle on a 1.5 percent raise,” Bennett said.
The two sides continue to negotiate, with their next meeting scheduled for Dec. 4. They have also requested a mediation hearing before a state magistrate.
Brevard Public Schools spokesman Matt Reed said neither school board members nor administrators can comment on the negotiations while the case is before the magistrate.
The union’s tactics are largely symbolic. The mediation is non-binding, and teachers must comply with any contract approved by the school board, whether they agree with it or not.
Teacher pay raises are an issue state-wide, and several other counties are also still in negotiations with local unions.
Florida ranked 34th last year in teacher pay out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to the National Education Association. The average teacher salary in Florida last year was $49,199, compared to the national average of $58,353. The average salary for a teacher in Brevard County is $47,723.

Written by: Jan Wesner Childs

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