NK School Employees To Picket Monday Morning

North Kingstown public school employees are planning another picket at the administration building Monday morning to bring attention to the plight of the custodians, whose jobs were outsourced to a private company resulting in drastic pay decreases.

Pat Crowley, an official with the NEA-RI, said it is still unclear whether the picket will turn into a work stoppage. That decision, he said, will be made over the weekend and will depend in part on whether or not the teachers again agree to honor the other employees picket line.

The scheduled first day of the school was canceled in North Kingstown because of a similar action. North Kingstown union officials say the Superintendent Phil Auger canceled school before their formally decided to strike.

In a letter to parents and union members drafted on that scheduled first day of school, Sandy Blankenship, the former president of the NK Educational Support Professionals union, and Nancy Ferencko, the current president, said:

As to the timing of the cancellation of school today, the superintendent suggests that we were attempting to dupe him and he needed to wait until he saw picket signs before calling off school.

Nothing is further from the truth. during negotiations he asked if we were going to go on strike. We told him no such decision had been made.

This morning our folks put up a picket line protesting the treatment of the janitors. There were no strike signs. Some signs we carried spoke to the economic violence visited on the janitors and their families. Others, our demand that the committee respect workers rights.

Without making any effort to ascertain our purpose, but upon seeing the signs, the superintendent jumped the gun and closed schools.

The fact of the matter is we pulled down the line before 7 a.m. – well before the start of school – and told our members to go to work. These are details that are frequently omitted from the media stories and conveniently left out of the superintendent’s email.

Union and school officials also differed about how negotiations eventually stalled before school was to start. Union officials said they were willing to keep talks open all night and we told to go home by school officials. School officials say they wanted to resume talks at a later time.

School employees are protesting the school committee’s decision to fire the 26 school custodians this summer and outsource their jobs to GCA, a Tennessee-based company that hired some of the custodians back but at a 30 percent reduction in salary. Superintendent Auger said that decision was made to save taxpayers money. Union officials say they made ample concessions consistent with an arbitrators decision that the committee would honor if it were negotiating in good faith.

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Bob Plain is the editor/publisher of Rhode Island's Future. Previously, he's worked as a reporter for several different news organizations both in Rhode Island and across the country.

4 responses to “NK School Employees To Picket Monday Morning”

  1. AParent

    Ms. Ferencko:

    Only  the union knows its intentions so please take ownership of your actions and make it clear whether or not you intend to strike. My children would appreciate it greatly. 

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  2. another NKparent

    I agree with AParent…as a working parent, I need to know whether or not to make other arrangements for my 8-year old. 
    Phil Auger had NO CHOICE but to cancel the first day of school. Was he supposed to wait until ALL NK kids were on their way to school only to find out that the union decision was to strike??  Again, as a working parent I appreciated KNOWING that other arrangements needed to be made.
    From what am have been reading, 6 folks lost their jobs and were not hired back. That is awful – no one can argue that. In this economy, many/most of us have some level of uncertainty about our jobs. We ALL know people who have lost their jobs in the past couple years.  
    If I have to repeatedly call in to work because school is or may be cancelled then my job is put at risk.

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  3. ricoast

    Enough! You tell the media that the superintendent knew the night before the first day of school that you were going to strike. And he should have called school before he did. THen you say that you weren’t really striking and he should not have called school at all. Enough is enough. A great many of us have actually lost our jobs and been forced to take lesser jobs at lesser pay. It is a fact of life in this economy. No consuer should be held hostage to ensure my standard of living doesn’t change in this economy. I should not be held hostage by anyone else. And most certainly, most certainly, my children should not be!!! 

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  4. Mark_DeSouza

    Notice the username. After 26 years in the military, I choose not to hide my identity. Ms Blankenship and Ms Ferenko’s comments above show typical union tactics. So what you’re telling us- the people you want to be sympathetic to your cause- is that after it was publicised all over the local news that there was a “chance” of a strike and school MAY be postponed, you “put up a picket line protesting the treatment of the janitors. There were no strike signs. Some signs we carried spoke to the economic violence visited on the janitors and their families. Others, our demand that the committee respect workers rights”? You “expect” the Superintendent to go out and ascertain your purpose? And he “jumped the gun”???
    I’m sorry, but your actions don’t pass the reasonable person theory. A reasonable person (with a HUGE responsibility to townwide parents) looks outside and thinks “well, I guess they’re picketing”. I know I would. The time for talk is at the table.
    Then you say Mr Auger “jumped the gun and closed schools” after you “pulled down the line before 7 a.m. – well before the start of school”?? Buses start running before 0630, ladies (I really want to sarcastically put “genius” in place of “ladies”). The man had to make a decision. He made the right one.
    Funny how this time your “threat of a strike” didn’t even make the local news. Just some obscure article in a blog.  

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