Union, school employees picket workplaces | NevadaAppeal.com

Union, school employees picket workplaces

TERI VANCE

Members and representatives of the classified school employees union turned their picket personal on Wednesday.

As school board president Bob Crowell walked out of the district office, picketers sang out, “I don’t know but I’ve been told, Bob Crowell ain’t got no soul.”

Protesters marched outside of the Carson City School District office as well as in front of Crowell’s law office.

“Essentially, we’re letting them know we’re not forgetting about this,” said Dennis Ziemer, union representative for the national organization American Federation of Teachers. “They have a 2 percent obligation and that’s it. It’s a matter of how soon do they want to stop this.”

Crowell said he supports the First Amendment rights of the employees but questions their methods.

“In a very real sense, I share their frustration,” he said. “But frankly, there are more effective ways that the union leaders could present a more positive message.”

Crowell suggested union leaders should have been involved in meetings to decide the budget, which are open to the public.

“When you look at the numbers that come to our district, you see the money just isn’t there,” he said. “They’ve got to get engaged in the process from the beginning, but to date, they’ve been invisible.”

Union members are calling on district officials to give a 2 percent pay increase to all classified employees – those who are not either teachers or administrators.

The Legislature set aside money for a 2 percent raise. However, the percentage is based on 2001 salaries. Since then, employees were given a 1 percent pay raise one year and a 2.5 percent increase the next.

The money for the pay raises was applied to the school district’s general fund.

The general fund was also hit with an increase of $503,000 in insurance costs and another $300,000 in an unfunded mandate by the Legislature to contribute to state retirement benefits.

“Deserving a raise and being able to afford a raise are two different things,” Superintendent Mary Pierczynski said.

Ziemer isn’t convinced.

“They’ve got the money, they just aren’t letting go of it,” he said.

He said they will continue to picket the school district office and the businesses of school board members until their demands are met.