Tulsa Local Beats District's Effort To Split the Union

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School district administrators in Tulsa, Okla., tried to pull the old switcheroo on school cafeteria managers—attempting to lure them out of their union with a promise of raises—but AFT members there were having none of it.

The 88 cafeteria employees noticed that something was up this past April when their expected raises didn't come through. That's when they were informed that they had been removed from their bargaining unit under a 2008 state law. "It became obvious when just one group of folks was going, 'Wait a minute, where's my raise?' " says AFT 6049 Oklahoma president Kelly Simon.

After the union brought up the issue with the school system, district officials tried to appease the cafeteria managers with promises of raises and promotions if they would agree to stay out of the bargaining unit for good, telling them they'd be a "special class" of workers exempt from the union contract.

The members, however, refused to be hoodwinked. Through their union, they filed a grievance with the school board and lost, then appealed to the state superintendent and won in October.

"This would have been like a canker sore that would fester and eventually bust up our union," Simon points out. "But our union pulled together through all of this, and we won." [Annette Licitra]

November 2, 2010