Negotiations hit snag as threats made against school unions

Sep 11, 2019

District and union negotiators at an earlier bargaining session.
Credit Shaylon Cochran/KDLL

UPDATE  Sept. 12: Negotiating teams for the district and unions met the evening of Sept. 12. The meeting was not announced in advance due to safety concerns. The session ended with the associations presenting the district with a counter offer. The district is expected to respond by the end of the day Sept. 13.

What was the last scheduled bargaining session Wednesday (9/11) between the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District and its unions was called off just hours before it was to begin after threats of violence were made to the union office.
    David Brighton is the Kenai Peninsula Education Association president. He explained there were three calls that came from Seward to the NEA Alaska office in Anchorage. KPEA is affiliated with NEA Alaska.
 “The threat was that they intended harm to everyone in the office. They didn't specify which office and because we have connected phone numbers, I wasn't sure where they were calling,” Brighton said. “So when we got that call I quickly called the superintendent, John O’Brien."
    After discussing it with the superintendent, Brighton said they agreed to postpone the negotiating session, where the district was due to respond to the unions’ latest offer.
 “My hope was that we might be able to meet in an undisclosed location. Ultimately he was not comfortable with that. So we are waiting,” he said. “We've reported it to the police. And hopefully we'll have a resolution to this concern. And we'll be able to come back to the negotiations table soon. In the meantime, we want to make sure that everyone's safe.”
    Kenai Peninsula teachers and support staff are seeking an affordable health plan, and have worked for three years without a contract.
 "It's unfortunate that it's come to this and we are anxious just to have a contract in place,” Brighton said. “And we hope that the police can solve this matter quickly.”
    Tensions and emotions have been running high as the unions come closer to a strike. They announced two weeks ago that they’d be prepared to strike after Sept. 16 if no contract is reached.