August 1, 2008

Union Blasts Diocese Contract: SDACT President Says AFL-CIO Official to Testify for Law Change.

By Mark Guydish, The Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

Aug. 1--The battle between the Scranton Diocese and the union trying to represent Catholic school teachers heated up sharply Thursday with the diocese announcing a draft contract for teachers that the union said "should never in any way be confused with a real contract."

Union President Mike Milz also announced Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Bill George plans to testify at a state House of Representatives hearing Aug. 18 on a bill to amend the Labor Relations Act to cover Catholic teachers.

The diocese posted two statements on the union battle on its Web site, and published them in this week's The Catholic Light.

One statement noted that the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board has rejected an effort by Milz to file a complaint contending he was laid off from his job at Holy Redeemer High School in retaliation for union activity.

The other statement detailed progress in its "Employee Relations Program," including a new draft teacher contract.

The union fired back with a posting on its own Web site, saying the diocesan statement was "full of its regular complements of lies and nonsense," insisting Milz had filed the complaint knowing it would be rejected, and that the rejection further proves the need to amend the state Labor Relations Act. The diocese statement says the draft contract was drawn up with teacher input, but the union contends "it is nothing more than the standard document presented to all at-will employees."

A copy of the draft contract, good for one-year, obtained by The Times Leader, leaves blanks for salaries but lists benefits that include: 10 sick days through the 185-day school year accumulated up to 45, four days off with pay for death in the immediate family, health insurance with teachers paying $80 a month for single coverage or $125 for family, and a pension plan with 3 percent teacher contribution and 7 percent paid by the diocese.

In its statements, the diocese repeats its insistence that Milz and others were laid off based on seniority because of declining enrollment, and that the Employee Relations Program provides "regular dialogue between the diocese and all school employees." The statements also say that the state Labor Relations Board's rejection of Milz complaint bolsters the diocesan argument that amending the law could create "serious religious freedom and constitutional consequences."

The union, however, counters by repeating its claim that a Holy Redeemer vice principal confirmed Milz was fired in retaliation for his union actions, that those who deny that will eventually be forced to testify in court, and that the whole episode proves the need for the state law amendment.

Read the draft contract at


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