NILES, Ohio (WKBN) — Drive down most any street in Niles and you’ll see a sign supporting Niles teachers. One last negotiating session is on Wednesday. If there’s no contract, they’re threatening to strike Thursday. Monday, the union spokesperson outlined the frustrations they’re having while no one with the school board would comment.
Traci Kempe is the spokesperson for the Niles teachers union. Monday she stood outside the Board of Education offices and expressed her frustrations with the lack of negotiations.
“We met Aug. 1 and not again until Aug. 26, and I feel like they’ve spent this entire month of Aug. preparing for that strike,” said Kempe. “Instead of sitting down and coming to an agreement with us.”
Union officials claim the school board is paying a Cleveland attorney $350 an hour and a Michigan Security firm to help prepare for a strike. The board also spent $225,000 on an online instruction program and will pay substitutes $225 to $300 a day. Friday night’s football game has also been canceled.
“We’re putting these kids in the middle of this, and that’s not fair. Canceling that game. Football is the heart and soul of our community,” said Kempe. “It’s sad. It’s a very, very sad situation.”
The Niles teachers union has filed unfair labor practice charges against the school board.
“It shows that the board is not bargaining in good faith. They’ve disclosed things that are supposed to be kept between the two bargaining units. They’ve used members of the board to talk to friends that were in the teachers’ union to try to feel out and see where they were on this,” said Kempe.
Salary is the only item holding up an agreement. The base salary of Niles teachers remained the same in five of the past 10 years. Their base pay is the second lowest in Trumbull County. Kempe says some teachers were told the money is there but the teachers never asked for it.
“Well, when you hear things like that what do they think we’re going to do? We’re doing to accept a contract that is based on lies?” said Kempe.
Wednesday’s negotiating session starts at 10 a.m. If there’s no settlement the teachers will vote one more time to decide whether or not to strike on Thursday.