The two rival Fairfax County teachers' organizations -- the Fairfax Education Association (FEA) and the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers (FCFT) -- last week ended their quiet feuding and squared off openly after agreement on a teacher pay raise of 10.4 percent was made public.
The FEA has already agreed to the 10.4 percent pay hike while the FCFT says the raise is not enough.
The latest salary proposal was part of a package agreed to by representatives of the FEA and Fairfax County school administrators. The package was the result of discussions during the past several months. The two parties were attempting to reach an agreement in time for inclusion in the superintendent's proposed budget, made public earlier this week.
The issue of teachers' salaries has been in the forefront since the FEA announced a "work-to-the-rule" job action last April to protest a 5.15 percent teacher pay raise the association said was inadequate. The job action, now in its ninth month, calls for teachers to work only a contract day -- seven and a half hours -- and to accept extra school work only under protest.
Shortly after that job action began, FCFT members also voted to support work-to-the-rule.
In an interview, FEA president Gerry Gripper said the 10.4 percent increase would bring "90 percent of the teachers right up to the cost of living." Gripper also said he would urge the FEA board of directors to vote to discontinue work-to-the-rule as a "sign of good faith." However, the FEA board put off action on work-to-the-rule until after the school budget was officially made public.
Rick Nelson, president of the rival FCFT, challenged Grippers' assertion that some teachers would be brought even with the cost of living as a result of the pay increase. Nelson says he can document an 18.3 percent loss in buying power over the past seven years. According to Nelson, the position of his organization is that any salary increase not commensurate with the increase in the cost of living is not acceptable.
Nelson says Gripper's statement ". . . drove the teachers berserk -- the best we can hope for with 10.4 is to be kept even with inflation this year.
"What the FEA has done is settle for a real wage cut," Nelson charged.
As a result of disillusionment with the FEA, Nelson said FEA members are beginning to join the FCFT.
While admitting his organization -- which is part of the AFL-CIO -- has only 500 members, Nelson says that numbr more than doubles last year's membership of 240 and is a barometer of teacher dissatisfaction with the FEA.
Gripper, however, says FEA membership is holding steady with 6,500 of the county's 7,154 teachers paying their dues. Gripper says the FEA is "right where we were at this time last year."