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SLPS teachers reject contract offer

By Rachel Lippmann/Adam Allington, KWMU

St. Louis, MO – A majority of teachers, teaching assistants, and other professionals at the St. Louis Public Schools have rejected the latest contract offer from the appointed board overseeing the district.

Two of the three bargaining units represented by American Federation of Teachers Local 420 voted against the contract Monday night, including 80 percent of the teachers. Union vice president Byron Clemens said the contract is financially acceptable, and said negotiators have worked out major differences, including making any final contract binding. The Special Administrative Board had wanted the ability to ignore the contract if necessary.

"That's why we came back to the table, that's why I say some of the major issues that we were far apart on, like the binding contract, that's been taken care of," Clemens said. "The union is not even close to discussing a strike. We would like to get these things resolved and I don't think we're that far apart."

District CEO Rick Sullivan says nothing about negotiations up to Monday's vote gave him the impression that it would be a contentious decision. Sullivan says the two-year proposal offered pay increases of 3-percent for each year of the contract.

"We certainly felt it was very fair and appropriate especially given the current economic conditions," said Sullivan.

Union members claimed the offering has too many "take aways", which could potentially lead to less autonomy in the classroom. Local 420 is asking for a federal mediator to bring the parties back to the negotiating table.