New CIR Law Pushes Up Timeline for Recognition as Bargaining Agent
March 8, 2012, Omaha – Beginning next week, many Omaha Public School (OPS) employees will be asked to sign cards authorizing the Omaha Education Association (OEA) to serve as their bargaining agent for the 2013-14 school year. The OEA has represented OPS teachers and other non-administrative certificated staff for more than 40 years.
The action follows the OPS Board of Education approval of OEA as the bargaining agent for bargaining unit employees for the 2012-13 school year, while taking no action on the Association’s request to recognize OEA as the bargaining agent for 2013-14, as well.
OEA President Chris Proulx said last year’s legislative revisions to collective bargaining statutes effectively require bargaining agent recognition now for negotiations that are statutorily required to begin this fall.
“Teachers are planners,” said Proulx. “We are planning now for negotiations that will affect the 2013-14 school year. We are pleased the OPS Board voted to move forward for the 2012-13 school year, but practical application of the new law means we need OPS Board recognition for the 2013-14 school year, as well.”
Proulx said while he hopes the OPS Board will address the issue at its March 19 meeting, the OEA will begin circulating the recognition cards early next week.
“It’s a bit like détente – trust but verify. We believe and are hopeful that the OPS Board will vote to recognize OEA as the bargaining agent for our members for the 2013-14 school year but we need to be prepared if that does not happen,” said Proulx.
The OEA Board of Directors voted Wednesday evening to begin circulating confidential “authorization cards” to members for their signatures. If necessary, the cards will be filed, along with a petition seeking a certification election, with the Commission of Industrial Relations (CIR). The cards and names of those signing the cards are confidential – only the CIR is allowed to see the cards. The CIR will order a certification election if a minimum of 30 percent of eligible bargaining unit members have signed the cards.
For more than 40 years, representatives of the Omaha Public Schools Board of Education and the Omaha Education Association have successfully negotiated salary and benefit agreements for most of the school district’s employees.
Background: Under LB 397, a new bargaining calendar was established for instructional staff at schools, educational service units and colleges. Bargaining for the 2013-14 contract year will fall under that new calendar. In part, the calendar provides that local bargaining units must submit requests for recognition as the collective bargaining agent on or before Sept. 1, 2012. Boards have until Oct. 1 to respond to requests for recognition. Negotiations must then begin by Nov. 1, 2012. A minimum of four negotiations meetings must be held, and negotiations must be concluded by Feb. 8, 2013. Requests for recognition must be re-submitted each year by September 1 of the year preceding negotiations for the next negotiated agreement. However, if Associations wait until September 1 to request recognition and delays occur, there may not be adequate time to complete bargaining before the Feb. 8 date, at which time the matter must be submitted to a resolution officer for mediation and fact finding. Additionally, to meet the deadlines of the new law, the practical timeline for a certification election requires recognition no less than 6 months prior to the school boards’ Oct. 1 recognition response deadline.
For more information, contact Karen Kilgarin 402-432-7776 or Chris Proulx at 402-346-0400.