Teachers and staff of two public employee unions in the Kenai Peninsula School District have set a strike date for Tuesday. They have been without a contract for more than 400 days and are operating under the previous contract, which ended in 2018.
Their latest proposal to the school district would cost $27,076 per year for each employee who is in the district’s health care program. The district has offered to pay $24,068 for each employee’s Aetna health care plan.
The difference of $3,008 per year, per employee, would cost the district an additional $3.2 million this year, money that the district says it does not have.
The Kenai Peninsula Education Association and the Kenai Peninsula Education Support Association voted on Friday to strike starting at 7 am on Sept. 17.
The statement posted on the KPEA Facebook page advised:
“The failure of the KPBSD to adequately address the Association’s primary concern of affordable healthcare premiums for public school employees continues to hinder an acceptable agreement. In May, 75% of teachers and education support staff voted to strike if the District could not come to the table with an offer that would lower healthcare premium costs to a level commensurate to comparable districts in Alaska. The District has not met that demand.
“On Thursday, September 12, the Association’s bargaining team presented the District with an offer that would have given up a previously agreed to raise of 2% for all employees in FY21, pending the outcome of Alaska Legislative Council v. Dunleavy, if the District would agree to the most recent healthcare proposal offered by the Associations. This proposal was designed to acknowledge the District’s concerns regarding the uncertainty around one-time state funding while respecting the Association’s desire to prioritize affordable healthcare.”
“We have said since May that we don’t want to strike, but we will. We have been bargaining for 575 days, and the District still doesn’t seem to understand how incredibly important healthcare is to our members. If they won’t listen to us at the table, we’ll take our message to the community. Until the District is willing to accept our reasonable proposal, we will exercise our legal right to strike,” said KPEA President David Brighton.
Ann McCabe, KPESA president, added, “We understand the short-term impact a strike will have on students and families, but the long-term impacts of growing class sizes and shrinking communities because no one can afford to work here are far more serious. The district can end this strike before it even begins if they decide to value our public school employees and offer them a fair contract.”