OEA Certified as Sole Bargaining Agent with 98% of the Vote
Omaha – The Omaha Education Association has won a bargaining unit certification election by an overwhelming 98 percent of the vote. The election result means OEA will be certified by the Commission of Industrial Relations as the sole bargaining agent for Omaha Public School employees in the unit.
The certification election was spurred by the OPS School Board’s lack of action on the OEA’s request for recognition as the bargaining agent for school year 2013-14. To ensure unit employees would have OEA representation, members collected certification election signature cards last spring from an estimated 83 percent of eligible bargaining unit members. Just 30 percent were needed to trigger the election.
“Both through the signature cards and earning 98 percent of the certification election vote, it is absolutely clear that OPS employees in the unit see the right to bargain as important,” said Chris Proulx, OEA president. “The certification election was about the absolute necessity of having a voice in our workplace – and that’s good not only for teachers and other education employees but also for our students and our community. Educators are very cognizant of the fact that our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions.”
More than 64 percent of those eligible voted in the certification election, with 2,523 voting yes and 53 voting no.
The certification election was prompted by the Nebraska Legislature’s passage of LB397 last year. LB397 revised collective bargaining statutes and, among other things, set a timetable for the negotiations process between Nebraska school districts and local associations.
Under the new statutes, bargaining must begin no later than Nov. 1 each year and conclude by the following Feb. 8. If the two sides have not reached agreement by the Feb. 8 date, fact finding is required before a resolution officer who then chooses the most reasonable offer on each issue in dispute.
The new law also requires that no later than Sept. 1 each year, the employees’ union must request recognition from the school district as the sole bargaining agent for employees in that bargaining unit. Unions that have previously been certified by the Nebraska Commission of Industrial Relations are permanently recognized as the bargaining agent.
Because bargaining for the 2013-14 contract year will fall under the new calendar, local associations needed to request school board recognition last spring for both 2012-13 and 2013-14. The 60-day window between the Sept. 1 recognition request deadline and the Nov. 1 bargaining startup would not leave sufficient time to pursue and complete a certification election.
Most of Nebraska’s 250 school districts accepted the two-year request for recognition. The Omaha Board of Education, however, accepted OEA’s request for recognition for 2012-13, but did not act on the more critical 2013-14 school year request.
For more information, contact Karen Kilgarin or Al Koontz at 1-800-742-0047.