The La Center School District made a contentious move Tuesday night, asking union reps to allow district employees to drop their representation.
The issue surfaced in the form of a “right-to-choose” resolution that gained unanimous approval from the district’s five-member school board. In essence, the resolution voices the district’s support for allowing its employees to work at the district without any obligation to become members of a union.
The nature of the resolution is symbolic; the school board doesn’t have the power to change union rules on its own.
The vote came after a 40-minute discussion drawing an unusually large crowd of several dozen people, Superintendent Mark Mansell said. Normally, La Center school board meetings draw an audience of about 10 local residents, Mansell added.
On Tuesday, the crowd consisted of district employees, community members and a large group from the Service Employees International Union Local 925 — a Seattle-based union representing school employees across the state.
Some of the union members spoke out against the resolution, and others sat in the audience holding signs protesting the proposal. A handful of attendees voiced support for the resolution. Overall, all the speakers remained respectful, though at times some became emotional, Mansell said.
“It was clear to me that the majority of the audience was not in favor of the resolution based on the number of speakers and periodic clapping,” Mansell said in an email to The Columbian.
The district has two collective bargaining agreements with its employees, and the board wanted to get the resolution out of the way before the first agreement — with classified staff — expires at the end of August. The other agreement, with certificated staff, was renewed last year and is set to run through 2017.