Catholic Teachers Plan to Fight Low Pay Elementary Educators Upset about Disparity

By Joan Little Of The Post-Dispatch | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), August 10, 1996 | Go to article overview

Catholic Teachers Plan to Fight Low Pay Elementary Educators Upset about Disparity


Joan Little Of The Post-Dispatch, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Teachers in Catholic elementary schools in the St. Louis area have a polite but firm request for the St. Louis Archdiocese:

Practice what you preach.

Fed up with pay and benefits that are less than what Catholic high school teachers get, the elementary teachers are forging ahead with plans to organize. About 75 of them met Friday to plan a membership drive this fall. They hope to be able to go to the archdiocese by Christmas to begin negotiating a contract for the 1997-98 school year.

About 2,300 teachers work at 159 Catholic elementary schools in the archdiocese.

Teachers in Catholic high schools and elementary schools start off at about the same salary, but pay raises are greater for high school teachers. The salary range for high school is $16,900 to $40,500. For elementary teachers, it's $16,890 to $32,530.

The archdiocesan elementary teachers say they don't see how the archdiocese can refuse to recognize them. The archdiocese, as well as the Catholic church in America, traditionally has supported the right of workers to organize. It traces that position to Pope Leo XIII's social encyclical, Rerum Novarum. The encyclical, issued in 1891, upheld the rights of all workers and criticized laissez-faire capitalism.

"I don't know how they can deny us," said Robin Heimos, a teacher at St. Francis of Assisi School in Oakville who is helping spearhead the movement to organize. In addition to low pay, a grievance procedure needs to be established in parish schools, Heimos and other teachers say. Now, teachers have no real recourse if they disagree with a principal's decision.

A small group of elementary teachers met June 17 with archdiocesan officials, including George Henry, superintendent of schools for the archdiocese. At the meeting, teachers asked the archdiocese to recognize their right to organize and bargain collectively on wages and benefits. They also wanted assurance from the archdiocese that no teacher would be discriminated against for supporting organizing efforts. …

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