By Ann Marie Shambaugh
Carmel Clay Schools teachers will soon vote on the future of their union.
The Indiana Education Employment Relations Board ruled April 27 that a representation election be held by mail ballot. The Carmel Clay Education Association is the current CCS teachers union, but the Carmel Teachers Association formed in recent years and has been seeking to become the exclusive representative of the teachers.
IEERB will mail ballots to eligible voters May 8. Ballots must be returned between May 11 and 25. IEERB will count the votes May 26. Teachers can vote for CCEA, CTA or for no representation.
Among the biggest points of contention between CCEA and CTA is membership in the Indiana State Teachers Association and National Education Association. CTA officials state that its dues will be approximately $100 per year and that membership in ISTA and NEA is voluntary. CCEA dues are $52, but members also must pay nearly $750 to join ISTA and NEA as well.
CCEA officials argue that these memberships are vital. Without them, they say teachers will lack legal protection, expert assistance and representatives who can work with legislators at the state and national level.
“For these reasons, among many others, cutting our long-standing ties with ISTA and NEA will work against all of our interests, not just today, but into the foreseeable future,” a May 1 update stated on CCEA’s Facebook page. “Instead, we should be joining together to increase our collective voice at the local, state and national levels. The staff of Carmel Clay Schools should be leading the fight to ensure every Hoosier student, including our own, receives the highest quality public education. Standing side-by-side with our brothers and sisters in education is what we stand for, and we believe it’s what you stand for, too.”
Jeffrey Hammond, an attorney representing CTA, said CCEA is making the claims as a “scare tactic.” If CTA is selected as the union, teachers can still opt in to ISTA and NEA, he said, but even if they don’t they receive legal protection through the district’s liability insurance policy. He also said only 23 percent of Carmel teachers are CCEA members and are already without these benefits.
“Keep in mind that 77 percent of Carmel Clay teachers have already voted with their pocketbooks and have decided that membership in CCEA (including ISTA/NEA) is not worth nearly $800/year to them,” he stated in an email. “Seventy-seven percent of Carmel Clay teachers do not have the ‘legal protections’ that CCEA is saying they are at risk of losing if CTA is elected. You can’t lose something you do not currently have.”
CTA officials say that new representation is needed after CCEA was unable to reach a contract agreement with CCS in three out of four years, more than any other district in the state. Each time, the factfinder ruled against CCEA, which resulted in teachers making less money than they could have if the two sides had reached an agreement earlier.
With only a few weeks of school left, Carmel teachers are still without a contract for the 2016-17 school year. IEERB ruled in August 2016 that bargaining couldn’t begin until teachers voted on whether or not to decertify CCEA as its union, but the election was delayed after CCEA filed an unfair labor complaint against CCS that same month. IEERB cleared CCS of any wrongdoing in a ruling issued in March.