PILLAGER -- The Pillager School Board voted Monday to eliminate the positions in the Teamsters Local No. 320.
There are about 31 members of the union that includes cooks, dishwashers, van drivers, secretaries, bookkeepers, custodians, health care providers and educational assistants.
The school board passed a resolution a few months ago to eliminate the positions with the intent to advertise for quotes for the services. Pillager Superintendent Phil Johnson said the district could save about $117,000 by eliminating the positions. He said the employees then have an option to apply for their position through the agency that would be hired.
Johnson said the vote to eliminate the union positions is not final. He said the district and the union have been negotiating its contract and the union filed for mediation. He said a mediation date with the state has not been set at this time.
"It is hoped that this disagreement can be worked out through the collective bargaining process," said Johnson. "Your (school board) decision can be reversed through collective bargaining. It will only be final on July 1 if an agreement is not reached through negotiations."
The school board had to eliminate the union positions Monday to follow the district's agreement with the union. The agreement states that if the district plans to lay off any employees covered by the agreement it must do so by May 1.
During the visitors' comments time at Monday's meeting, the union handed in a petition with 362 names to the school board asking it to rescind its resolution.
Outside of the school board meeting, Joanne Derby, vice president of the Teamsters Local No. 320, said she is not surprised by the school board's action.
"The school district is out to bust the union, no matter what the cost," she said. "We do have a long road ahead ... It depends on how much the school district wants to negotiate and work with us."
Cindy Sweet, who lives in the Pillager School District and works as a teaching assistant, said she feels badly for the employees who have been with the district for many years.
Sweet has worked for the district for three years and said she has never worked at a place that asked her to take a $2 an hour cut in salary and asked her to give up her health insurance.
"Is that fair?" she said. "I don't know, I've never experienced that before. I don't think they (school board members) are thinking this through."
Shirley Hines of Pillager has been with the district for 15 years as a teaching assistant. Hines said she feels like she is being treated like an outsider while at work.
"It's very discouraging coming to work," she said. "You try to be upbeat for the students, but it's tough. It's hard to keep a good outlook on things."
Hines said the students know what is going on with the district and the union and they ask Hines if she is going to be leaving the school.
"They are all really concerned," she said. "They hear their parents talking or others at school. They know what's going on. I try to talk to them and I tell them it is a possibility (that I will lose my job)."
Hines, who also graduated from Pillager High School, said she would not consider applying for her position if it does get eliminated. She said it would not be fair to the Teamsters, plus she would not receive benefits and could receive a lower pay.
Leo Carner of Pillager has been a custodian at the school for five years. He also graduated from the school and he worked for the school at age 14.
"I think they have been treated unfairly," Carner said of the union. "A lot of people (in the union) have good experience with these jobs.
"I feel like everyone else does. It is not the right thing to do, especially with the economy right now."
School board member Mark Kavanaugh said after the meeting he could not comment on the issue since the district is in mediation with the union.
The employees in the union are Diane Addison, Kathy Babb, Lori Blumke, Dorothy Carner, Leo Carner, Sherry Coffey, Darrel Crimmins, MaryJo Gruber, Gary Heinke, Linda Hill, Shirley Hines, Amy Jensen, Eldon Kangas, Carla LaPorte, Diane Larson, Doug Loftis.
Maureen Milless, LeAnn Mjolsness, Linda Niles, Megatha Nygren, Linda Perry, Lois Peterson, Margie Puetz, Teresa Ringler, Alina Robinson, Jana Rosekrans, Trisha Saulsbury, Karen Skeesick, Barb Snow, Cindy Sweet and Teresa Wagner.
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