Lansing Teachers Picket

By: Beth Shayne Email
By: Beth Shayne Email

"What do we want?" teachers yelled outside the administration building on Kalamazoo. "Contract!" others answered. "When do we want it?"

"Now!"

After 4 months without a contract, the Lansing teacher's union is no longer voicing their frustrations in private.

"It's a season of giving, not taking," Al Rios said.
"We really feel betrayed," said Jonelle Johnston.

One month ago, the school board voted to stop payment of a stipend that most teachers received as incentive to take a less comprehensive insurance package.

"This has nothing to do with fair, or unfair and everything to do with fiscal responsibility, says board spokesperson Kelly Rossman-McKinney. She's said in the past it would have irresponsible to continue to pay the 166 monthly stipend.

"For anyone to think the district's in position to pay that kind of money...they are sorely mistaken."

The teachers say the board pulled the rug out from underneath them, sorely damaging trust among a group that had given concessions in the past.

It was only a year ago, one union member remembers, they gave up their pay raise to help the district. "Now here we are having cuts imposed on us this time," says Greg Baxter, a school psychologist at Gardner Middle School.

The union's filed a lawsuit, alleging a violation of the Open Meetings Act, but in the meantime they are out to win the public's support.

"The district is still trying to fill a deficit," says Dan Gimenez, a school counselor who is on the bargaining team. "I think there are other ways of doing that."

The district did offer to push back the stop payment until January. The union says that offer was tied to their dropping their lawsuit, and they weren't interested in that trade.


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