UEA organizes rally at Board of Education meeting

Teachers are currently working without a contract

Haley Grooms, Print Editor-in-Chief

From elementary schools to secondary, educators across Utica Community Schools united for a major yet personal issue: contracts that include everything from class sizes to salaries. During the past two Board of Education meetings, many teachers rallied outside with signs, candles, chants, and displays of protest. This time was different.

On Monday, Oct. 28, the Utica Education Association rallied outside of the Instructional Resource Center (IRC) before and after the Board of Education meeting.

“The state has restored Utica’s funding, so it’s time. It’s time for our voice, for our kids, and it’s time for us [UEA members] to get respected,” UEA president Eliza Parkinson said to the rallying crowd. “We have made a lot of good noise outside, so now it is time to make a quiet message as we walk into that board meeting.”

Approximately 1,000 attended the event; teachers were joined by supporters including family, friends, and even students. Various news outlets were also in attendance.

“We are involved in ongoing negotiations with the association leadership,” Tim McAvoy, Director of School and Community Relations, said to Fox2 Detroit. “We’re committed to the bargaining process; we respect the negotiation process and we’re going to work very closely with the union leadership on an agreement.”

After walking with signs before the meeting, teachers silently protested while Utica Community Schools’ audit was being read. They stood up and displayed signs that read, in all capitals, “$65 MILLION ON OUR BACKS!!!” while facing their backs to the Board of Education. Then they began to snake the back of the room while holding different colored signs that said “TIME,” “IS,” “ALMOST,” and then teachers that were sitting down stood with red signs that said “UP.”

While the district and UEA continue to work together to settle a contract, specific information cannot be revealed by the teachers or other administrators. A bargaining team is set in place to create contract between the UEA and the Board of Education.

“We do respect the collective bargaining process,” McAvoy said to Channel 7 News. “Bargaining in good faith means that details of the negotiations are kept at the table.”

UEA members will be picketing outside all four of the district’s high schools from 6:45 to 7:45 Friday morning.