Middletown teachers protest stalled labor talks, file complaint against district

Credit: Journal News

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Credit: Journal News

More than 120 teachers rallied in protest outside of Middletown High School earlier this week as their union’s leaders accused the city schools of an unfair labor practice, according to their recent filing with a state oversight board.

The Middletown Teachers Association representatives then complained directly to the school board, saying contract talks for the district’s 462 teachers and other school staffers are not being conducted properly and teachers’ input on work conditions are not being heard.

And, union leaders claimed, district officials improperly discussed new work requirements directly to teachers during a pre-school year meeting in August while those standards were being simultaneously negotiated with the MTA, according to a Nov. 3 “unfair labor practice charge” filed by the union with the State Employment Relations Board.

The MTA press conference at the roadway entrance to the Middletown High School and middle school campus.

It was a rare public display of a rift between the teachers and district since both sides re-opened contract talks during the summer.

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Teachers are in year two of the three-year contract that ends in July 2023.

Among teachers’ complaints are district requirements for instructors to earn “micro-credentials” as part of their employment.

MTA Spokeswoman Susie Lane also criticized Middletown leadership in a released statement as demonstrating “a definite pattern of disrespect and condescension.”

“MTA has been negotiating with the board of education for months and no resolution is in sight. A whole host of issues remain unresolved,” said Lane, who declined to reveal those issues beyond complaints against the micro-credentials.

MTA President Laurie Woods said teachers want more of a voice in the schools, said MTA President Laurie Woods.

Woods, who teaches at Amanda Elementary, said the union wants to “re-emphasize the desire of MTA to be included, involved and asked to participate in discussions, event and activities that impact our work, the district and our community.”

MTA officials said the union, which next meets in talks with the district on Friday, has no plans to ask its members to authorize a strike vote.

After the short press conference and teacher rally, many of the school employees then walked into the high school and packed the Middletown Board of Education meeting, re-reading their statement from the press conference.

Middletown district officials said of the on-going labor talks: “The Board of Education is in negotiations with the Middletown Teachers Association (MTA). The board remains committed to the process of securing an agreement acceptable to all parties.”

But school officials also declined to reveal the contested portions being addressed in the re-opened contract negotiations.

During the board meeting, member Todd Moore said “it’s been an emotional evening with where we are at in negotiations. I do hope some type of agreement can be negotiated in good faith moving forward.”

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