ANDERSON — As Rick Muir looks back on his career as an educator and a teachers’ union leader, he says these last few years have been the most difficult.
Muir is the president of the Indiana Federation of Teachers in Indianapolis and no longer a local union officer. He retired in 2010 after 37 years as an Anderson teacher although he and his wife, Peggy, still live in Anderson.
The way Muir sees it, education is under attack. Education funding was cut by the state several years ago. To help balance the budget locally, Anderson teachers agreed to give back 2 percent of their pay in 2010, then 3 percent in 2011. That 5 percent was restored last year.
Then, the state’s collective bargaining laws were changed in 2011 so that teacher unions could only bargain for pay and pay-related benefits, but not broader language. For Anderson teachers, that created a problem because their contract covers much more than pay, he said.
The Anderson Federation of Teachers’ master contract with the Anderson Community Schools board is more than 150 pages long. For example, teacher discipline, class sizes, the school year’s calendar, working conditions and even dress code are included.
Muir says when he left the local union in 2010, he wanted to bargain for a lengthy contract. The existing contract should expire in 2018. Muir hopes that by 2018 more union-friendly politicians might be in power.
In days gone by, the union and school board would meet yearly and renegotiate pay and benefits. But now there’s a catch. The laws have changed.
Muir says according to some legal opinions if the board and union negotiate pay and benefits, it’s considered opening the contract.
“And there is an argument that you’ll lose your contract at that time,” he said. “So you can’t even go bargain a raise right now without fear of losing your contract. ... Because once you lose it, you lose everything.”