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Montgomery teachers union to file unfair labor practice charge

The union and the county school system have been in a dispute while setting ground rules for contract negotiations

Teachers and senior students return in-person at Sherwood High School in Montgomery County on April 8, 2021, in Sandy Spring, Md. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
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Leaders of Montgomery County’s teachers union said they planned to file an unfair labor practice charge against the county’s public school system Tuesday in an ongoing disagreement over ground rules that have stalled contract negotiations.

The dispute has blocked discussions over an upcoming three-year contract that would start in July 2023 and help determine teacher salaries and benefits. The Montgomery County Education Association — which represents more than 14,000 teachers — and Montgomery County Public Schools clashed this month over how many of those contract talks should be open. The union wanted all the negotiations to be open for all of its members; the school system has offered five virtual open sessions and two virtual town halls. Negotiations were scheduled to start Tuesday at the latest.

Jennifer Martin, the teachers union president, said in an interview Tuesday that the union tried to move forward by proposing its own set of negotiation dates, but the school system’s negotiators didn’t respond.

“Because we’ve been arguing over ground rules since June, at this point, their refusal to establish dates for us to meet we believe constitutes an unfair labor practice and is contrary to the law,” Martin said. The union is bringing some of its proposals over teacher retention and recruitment to an annual, routine meeting it has with the county’s board of education Tuesday instead.

Before that meeting, several members of the union protested outside the school system headquarters.

Montgomery County Public Schools questioned whether the union’s decision to file an unfair labor practice charge could delay contract discussions for months. “MCPS continues to request that MCEA help all of us to move forward, establish ground rules today, and allow us to demonstrate the leadership that is required now,” a statement from the school system said Tuesday.

The charge is being filed with Maryland’s Public School Labor Relations Board. The school system can offer a written response. After the union’s complaint and school district’s answer are filed, the labor relations board can make a decision or refer the matter for a fact-finding hearing before the Office of Administrative Hearings, according to Kristy Anderson, an attorney from the Maryland State Education Association.

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