Dear CH-UH Families,
There has been discussion on social media and in the community about whether public school teachers in Ohio give up their right to pay and benefits beginning on the first day of a strike. Please understand, the Board is fully aware of its legal obligations in this regard, and we feel it’s important to share additional details with you.
We want to first emphasize that despite our good faith negotiating efforts over many months of bargaining, the Cleveland Heights Teachers Union on November 20 chose to give the District a notice
of their members’ intent to strike beginning on December 2. We have been in discussions with the Union for nearly 20 hours in the last several days to work to resolve our differences, and we remain committed to the process.When public school teachers choose to go on strike, they are knowingly walking away from wages and benefits.
That is the definition of a strike - employees choose to walk away from their compensation in order to influence terms and conditions of employment. Ceasing wages and benefits is required for public sector employees in Ohio under state law. We sincerely hope Union leadership informed its members of this and what choosing to strike means.
Our District is not alone in this. Ohio public school districts who have experienced strikes in recent years consistently took these same steps to comply with the law. That includes, for example, the Fall 2020 Gahanna-Jefferson School District strike where the District took steps to cancel health insurance for teachers when they went on strike. Also in Fall 2020, Streetsboro City Schools took steps to cancel health insurance for teachers during a strike upon receiving a strike notice from the bargaining unit.
However, employees may also choose to continue their health benefits through COBRA, even during the period of a strike. If they elect the COBRA coverage, there will be no lapse in coverage. The change is the employee, not the Board, must pay for the coverage. While we understand this expense will be a burden to some striking teachers, it does allow for continuation of coverage during a strike.
Just as the Union has the legal right to call for a strike, the District has the legal right to make work available to any bargaining unit member who wants to work during the strike. Teachers who choose to continue to work will continue to receive their pay and benefits.
This was an incredibly difficult resolution for the Board to pass, particularly during a global health emergency. But the Board recognizes its obligation to do so. We still hold out hope that a strike can be averted for our students’ sake. No matter what, we most certainly respect our teachers and their right as public employees to make their own choice.
Superintendent Elizabeth Kirby
Board of Education President Jodi Sourini