Idaho Dispatch

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West Ada School District Union Survey Leaked. Strike Possible? Union Responds

By • September 23, 2020

This afternoon Idaho Dispatch received a tip about a survey from the West Ada Education Association (teacher’s union) that asked teachers about a possible “work action.”

Within the email, the WAEA describes a work action as,

An action, such as a strike or shutdown, taken by workers as a means of increasing bargaining power with management, or a temporary action (such as a strike, march, or sick out) by workers as a protest and means of forcing compliance with demands (The Free Dictionary, Merriam-Webster).

There is no indication in the email to the members of the WAEA why the survey is being sent out other than the “current climate of the district and state.” The request is for respondents to do the survey by September 28th, 2020 at 5:00 p.m.

Here is a screenshot with the instructions to the association members (The rest of the story is below.):

We have sent a series of questions to James Orr, Vice President of the WAEA, asking for clarification on why this survey was sent out.

In the email, we asked Orr if teachers had approached the association about a possible work action. Additionally, we asked him what particular “climate” conditions in the district or state were unsatisfactory.

Mr. Orr responded to our email with the following message:

This email is in regards to your interest in our association membership internal climate survey. If you would like more information about it, please contact our association president, Eric Thies. His contact information is below.

We then forwarded our email to WAEA President Eric Thies and this is the statement he sent to Idaho Dispatch,

West Ada Education Association members have shared concerns about the COVID-19 protocols. The safety of students and educators should be the top priority and should be achieved by following the guidance of scientific and medical professionals. Questions have been raised, internally, by members about the degree of transparency and relative safety of students and staff within our district. WAEA is a member-driven, democratic organization. We regularly survey our membership, and in this survey we asked about the level of concern they have regarding the coronavirus and the district’s plans.
Educators want our lives and our school experiences to return to some level of normalcy as soon as possible. No one wants more than we do to have in person instruction, sports and extracurricular activities, and less cumbersome workplace restrictions—but for now, the health of students and staff takes precedence over any wish list.
We hope the community continues to appreciate educators going above and beyond with in-person teaching and online instruction, hours of extra communication with parents and students, looking out for the physical and mental well-being of our students, as well as cleaning and other duties that have made for unsustainable workloads. Educators are doing this work often with class size issues that were problematic prior to the COVID-19 crisis. Add to that the stress and concerns about the safety of our school buildings due to a pandemic and the frustration of professional educators is more than understandable.

According to Thies’s email, there appear to be concerns from educators on the protocols that have been established so far and that is what appears to have driven the survey.

We did send Thies several follow up questions which he also responded to.

One question we sent to Thies asked why there was not more clarification in the survey on why WAEA members were filling the survey out in the first place. Why were specific COVID-19 concerns not addressed in the email to explain why a possible “work action” might be necessary and only the “climate of the district and state” mentioned? Additionally, we asked Thies if the members who brought these concerns forward were asking for a “work action” or if that was something they came up with for the survey as a potential solution to the concerns of their members.

Here is the response we received from Thies:

There were a few members suggesting we take work action. To be clear most of those suggestions were suggesting we take action without interrupting instruction. Many teachers are frustrated at the current situation, just like the people in our community and expressed several reasons for that frustration.  This survey was intended to be a preliminary survey to find out if the WAEA Exec Board should even engage in a conversation about whether we should plan some sort of work action.

Update: We also received this email in regard to our follow up questions:

This is one of many regular, internal communications sent to members.  There was no intended, hidden meaning.  The intent was to keep this email unbiased and not sway member responses.  As a truly democratic organization, we are member lead, and need to know what members are thinking.

Because the survey is meant for WAEA members, we are not going to link to the survey itself. However, we have posted images of the survey below so you can see what the survey contains.

What do you think of the survey? Do you think some teachers may be preparing a strike based on what the WAEA has said so far?

Let us know in the comments below.

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Tags: Coronavirus, Idaho, James Orr, Schools, West Ada Education Association

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