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Contract Settlement Reached

Teachers, Paras Triumph in Gary!

Striking AFT members in Gary, Ind., held the line—and won. On Sept. 1, members unanimously approved a new three-year contract and returned to schools the same day, ending a nine-day strike that showed district bullying could not undermine the toughness and resolve of more than 1,400 teachers and paraprofessionals represented by the Gary Teachers Union.

"The district threatened termination and warned they would cut off health and life insurance" for strikers, said Sandra Irons, president of the local and an AFT vice president. "But the unity was there. Our people just dug in."

The new contract ends the threat of strike-related sanctions against AFT members and guarantees no lapse in health and life insurance coverage.  Along with 2 percent annual salary increases, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2005, the new deal improves health care coverage for paraprofessionals. These members will be moved into the teachers' Blue Cross-Blue Shield plan at district cost. It also restores payroll deduction of union dues.

Irons extended special thanks to the many individuals and community groups that stood up for educators during the strike. "We got excellent support—the kind of community involvement that we really were looking for [and] we will work hard to keep them engaged."

The strike and settlement also will strengthen the local in the months and years ahead, predicts Irons, who believes that only three or four teachers crossed the line during the job action.  "Our people came out, took part and showed leadership," she says. When it comes to union building, "this was a boomer for us."