The Prince George's County Board of Education last night unanimously approved interim work and wage rules for the county's 6,000 teachers as several hundred teachers chanted and shouted for "fair play" from the board and a final contract settlement.
About 200 teachers jammed the board meeting room in Upper Marlboro while between 400 and 500 filled the parking lot outside, where the proceedings were broadcast on loudspeakers.
Union officials had hoped to have more than 1,000 teachers come to pressure the board to grant binding grievance arbitration and conclude an agreement on a new teacher contract.
There were several impassioned speeches from teachers and union officials backed by foot-stomping applause from teachers, but the board refused to budge on the binding arbitration issue.
"I cannot in good conscience say that I want to absent my responsibility as an elected official to a negotiator," board member Bonnie Johns told the teachers inside the room as the teachers in the parking lot sang "We Shall Not Be Moved."
The teachers' two-year contract expired Wednesday night with no new agreement despite eight months of negotiation. An independent labor arbitrator recommended that teachers accept a one-year contract with no cost of living increase. At the same time, the arbitrator said the board should grant the union binding arbitration in grievance proceedures, a provision included in teacher contracts in 16 of Maryland's 24 school jurisdictions.
The arbitrator also recommended a two-day reduction in the number of teacher workdays, from 189 to 187.
The school board agreed to almost all of the recommendations. It also said it would compensate certain teachers a flat $186 to offset increases in what they contribute toward fringe benefits.
But the board rejected binding arbitration, despite the fact that School Superintendent Edward J. Feney supported the idea and board negotiators had agreed to it in principle during the arbitration proceeding. The board's rejection surprised and angered union leaders, who accused the board of bargaining in bad faith.
"Without binding arbitration our contract is not worth the paper it is printed on," union vice president Ginny Beauchamp told the board last night.
The board approved a resolution extending the pay, most fringe benefit and union dues checkoff provisions of the last contract, but eliminating that contract's provision for a grievance proceedure. At that point, Beauchamp said, "It would be my interpretation now that if we have a difficulty over a working condition we have nowhere to turn to."
Union president Paul Pinsky said he was slightly disappointed at the size of the crowd. He said many teachers were "just beaten up" by the first days of school, which opened this week. School officials and some teachers have said privately that rank and file teachers, mindful of the fact that 507 of their colleages were laid off in 1982, were simply glad to have jobs.