Field service workers at the National Education Association, the country's largest teachers union, went on strike yesterday to protest management demands that union members described as "the same things that NEA works and speaks out against when they're representing teachers."
Members of the Association of Field Service Employes, an affiliate of the National Staff Organization, began walking a picket line at 1201 16th St. NW after a three-year contract with management expired at midnight. Negotiations began six months ago between the NEA and the 63 union members, workers who travel around the country to represent the association during bargaining and organizational drives.
According to union members, NEA management wants to eliminate a compensatory time provision, streamline retirement benefits and give bonuses rather than salary increases during one year of the proposed three-year pact.
"They want to do the same thing to us that they protest for teachers. I never would have thought they would have tried to give us merit pay," said Barry Abel, an AFSE representative. Merit pay, also known as incentive pay, is a compensation theory based on the idea of giving more money to those workers who are evaluated and judged by supervisors to do superior work. NEA historically has often argued against such methods of pay for teachers.
An NEA representative declined to discuss specifics about the strike yesterday but said the two sides "are still bargaining and we're still hopeful." A mediator with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service has entered the negotiations.
"We're still looking for a settlement," said Bob Harman, NEA spokesman. "These are experienced and valued employes and we hope we can come to an agreement."