NEA strikers return to work

Union, staff resolve contract differences

Posted: Tuesday, February 06, 2001

ANCHORAGE - The statewide teachers union and its staff have reached a deal on a new four-year contract, ending a strike by the union's 23 employees.

The National Education Association-Alaska and its workers represented by the National Staff Organization-Alaska each ratified a tentative agreement reached Friday with the help of a federal mediator.

Staff members were to return to work this morning, three weeks after they went out on strike. Picketers walked the sidewalk near Juneau's NEA office, at Second and Main streets downtown, much of that time.

Neither side would talk about contract details. Agreements between a union and its employees, unlike those involving school districts, are not public.

Both sides, however, said the new contract provides for salary increases, efforts to hold down health insurance costs and retirement incentives for senior staff.

"It was all about money," NEA-Alaska President Rich Kronberg told the Anchorage Daily News.

The teachers' union staff works out of Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau. Staff members conduct negotiations, pursue grievances and help the statewide union with other matters.

NEA-Alaska professionals include four labor attorneys and seven others who have degrees in labor relations, said Jeff Cloutier, a union spokesman. The highest paid of them gets more than $100,000 annually, Kronberg said. NSO-Alaska leaders put that figure at about $95,000.

"I have got 31 years of experience, and I'm making that big (upper-end) salary," said Cloutier.

The other half of the NSO-Alaska members are the support staff, and their top-ranked earners make about $57,000 a year, exclusive of overtime and health insurance.

Teachers and other NEA-Alaska members are aware that most of the union staff earns "a lot more" than they do, Kronberg said. Some teachers believe union staff are paid about right, he said, while others think staff salaries should be tied to that of teachers.

The contract agreement also creates a joint committee to try to close rifts created by the bargaining dispute, strike and disruption of services.

The contract settlement will not mean a rise in dues for NEA members, Cloutier said.

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