Exclusive to Grand Rapids Pundit:
GR Pundit has come in to possession of a letter being sent to teachers and substitute teachers, preparing them for an impending illegal strike against Grand Rapids Public Schools. View the GREA Strike Letter. The letter, signed by Grand Rapids Education Association president Paul Helder on August 5th, laments the fact that Grand Rapids Public Schools teachers have worked without a contract for a year, and that no other teachers in Kent County are facing this "difficulty." They claim that their contract demands are "minimal" and that there is "no end in sight" for the end to the negotiations. They further warn that the school district "...may impose its will on us, taking away rights and benefits..."
What is the difference between what GRPS is proposing and that the GREA is demanding, with the threat of strike?
According to the Grand Rapids Press, the union is demanding that teachers receive a raise of between 6.85% and 9.05%, with a retroactive increase of an additional 2% for the prior school year. In addition, the union is fighting a health insurance contribution increase of $40 a month. In contrast, the the school district is proposing raises of between 5.1% and 7.31%. The district wants teachers to pay $90 per month for health insurance, up from $50 a month now.
The union's proposals would add $8.5 million to the school district's budget, despite the fact that the district is losing around 850 students a year.
As we can see, the school district's offer is imposing "difficulty" on teachers. When's the last time you received a minimum 5.1% annual increase, no matter how well (or poorly) you did your job?
The letter is directed at those who would potentially cross the picket lines, mostly substitute teachers. It asks the letter's recipient to "honor our picket lines," and to "reject a call to substitute, if a strike occurs." In other words, the union is clearly planning an illegal teacher strike, and asking substitute teachers to participate in their illegal activity.
Finally, the letter states that the recipient will "receive a telephone call from a GREA member..." No doubt, this phone call will consist of a "friendly" reminder of the consequences of breaking a picket line.
The state's attorney general should investigate this matter immediately. The union is obviously spending money, received from taxpayers, to prepare to break state laws.
The union is doing everything it can to drive even more students and parents out of Grand Rapids. When will the popular media and the politicians stand up and end this fiasco? The lack of a decent education available from GRPS, along with an increasingly militant union, only makes our economic situation worse.