U-High Midway

Negotiations begin for new faculty contract

Leland Culver, Reporter

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Negotiations between the Faculty Association and the Laboratory Schools administration for a new contract are just getting underway.

The representatives for both parties, eight representing the faculty union and eight representing the administration, have until June 30, 2019, to agree on a new contract, when the current one, which has been in effect since July 1, 2015, expires. The union membership must also vote to approve the final contract.

The contract applies to all faculty members, including teachers, counselors, librarians and assistant teachers, but not custodians, administration, food service or substitutes. It covers everything from working conditions and class sizes to benefits and salaries.

Charlie Abelmann

Negotiations are currently in the very early stages. Lab Schools Director Charlie Abelmann, a lead representative for the administration, said the meetings in November will be primarily working with federal mediators to train negotiators. The mediators also help organize the process.

Everyone gets trained, regardless of prior experience, said Sharon Housinger, a science teacher who is the union’s vice president of communications. 

The next few meetings after that, scheduled to take place in December, are to decide how the process will look, and in particular to determine the major issues, said Dr. Abelmann. 

Jim Catlett

The major issues brought up by the union will be decided on by a poll of union members, according to Faculty Association President James Catlett. One issue he noted had been brought up in the past is class size.

“Twenty-four in a class is, we feel, a lot of students,” said Mr. Catlett, a science teacher. “When you look at other private schools comparable to Lab, they have lower class sizes.”

Dr. Abelmann said he thinks that students should be involved and attentive to the negotiations.

Students should have a strong voice relative to issues in the life of a school. I would not be against working with the executive board of the union to figure out how to bring student voice to the bargaining table.”

— Charlie Abelmann, Lab Schools Director

“Students should have a strong voice relative to issues in the life of a school,” he said. “I would not be against working with the executive board of the union to figure out how to bring student voice to the bargaining table.”

He said it would not necessarily be for every session, but perhaps for some.

Negotiations over the agreed issues should begin in January with weekly meetings through the end of the year, according to Ms. Housinger. Depending on how many issues come up and how complex they are, the teams could end up having to meet more or less frequently as the deadline approaches.

Ms. Housinger has been on a few of the previous negotiations, as have several members on both sides of the team.

“It’s kind of fun,” she said. “They convince you of something, and you convince them of something, and then you merge the ideas together and come up with a really good solution.”

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The Student News Site of University of Chicago Laboratory High School
Negotiations begin for new faculty contract