On one of the last days of solidarity summer, dozens of Decatur Public Schools Teaching Assistants and Security Officers rallied together before the September 12 District Board Meeting.
SEIU Local 73 and the Decatur Federation of Teachers have been in contract negotiations with the District since April, and both contracts expired in June. Both groups have experienced delays at the bargaining table, which has escalated to federal mediation for both unions. Additionally, Local 73 has filed an unfair labor practice against the District for unilaterally implementing a mandatory subject of bargaining.
“We are tired of empty promises which no one stays long enough to remember, bonuses and wasted spending that could cover raises for those of us in the trenches. Together, we want the District administration to know we will not be bullied, we will not break, we will not bend, and we will not be bamboozled,” said Johnny McClendon, Security Officer and Local 73 union steward.
Security Officers are responsible for the safety and security of all Decatur Schools staff and students. They are among the lowest paid in the District and receive no vacation time. The District has thrown additional responsibilities onto Security Officers, such as carrying Narcan and tourniquets. The District has also attempted implementing a new dress code policy without informing or negotiating with the union. Local 73 filed an unfair labor practice after an employee was threatened with discipline for refusing to follow the new policy.
“We are trying to address real issues in our District through this contract. Our students need us to get it done,” said DFTA President Michelle Mitchell. “We know what it will take to improve our District and give students a better learning environment. Our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions. We’re asking for fair pay and the respect we deserve.”
“I’m here not just as a State Senator, but as an AFSCME retiree,” said State Senator Doris Turner. “The things that you do each and every day build our communities. Education is the foundation on which we build community. Our communities and kids cannot be strong and cannot have the great future that we know they deserve without the work that you put in every day.”
Federal mediation for Local 73 and DFT will begin in mid-September.