Despite the Longview School District’s decision to hire a different electric contractor in place of Busack Electric after the company refused to cross the teacher picket line, no hard feelings remain between the two parties.
Prior to the strike, Busack Electric was offered a handful of jobs by the district department of Maintenance, Operations, Transortation and Facilities (known as MOTF). But the district hired another electrical contractor shortly after the strike began and Busack, a union contractor, declined to cross the picket line.
Andy Busack, owner of the company, said his firm had agreed do ‘four or five’ projects for the district, it was not under a formal contract to do so.
“The MOTF, in the past, has called us if they need our assistance with anything, so this was another one of those scenarios where they needed to get some work done before school started,” Busack said Wednesday.
District spokesperson Rick Parrish said the projects were safety- and security-related and included covering exposed wires and making sure classrooms had access to lighting.
Busack said, “We had started all those projects in one form or another ... and a couple of the projects we had even purchased materials with anticipation that we would be doing the work. Then the strike started, and because we are a union shop, we honor other unions when they have labor disputes.”
Busack employees learned about the teachers’ strike shortly after showing up for work on Aug. 23, the first day of the walkout. Busack said his crew decided it was “in the best interest of our union and the teachers’ union” to not cross the picket line.
“One of my employees reached out to the MOTF and let them know we would not be able to work on those projects because we couldn’t cross the picket line,” Busack said.
The district hired a different company to complete the projects “in the interest of student safety and security,” Parrish said. He could not confirm the name of the substitute contractor.
“There was some work we had that was immediate that was safety- and security-based that we chose to have completed because we knew once negotiations were completed there would only be one day (before students arrived),” Parrish said.
“The district’s sole purpose for getting this job done was to make sure we had classrooms prepared for the return of school and that safety issues were taken care of,” Parrish said.
Busack said his company was not informed of the district’s decision to hire another contractor to finish the work until this past Monday. The initial reaction was shock and frustration, he said.
“I don’t know what was different about this (strike) than in the past, but it just seemed to me like there was a lot of animosity between both parties,” Busack said. “We just feel like we got caught in the crosshairs. We were guilty by association.”
Nonetheless, Busack said, he understands the district’s decision was “purely a business decision and not personal decision.”
“We don’t hold any ill will toward the school district, and we don’t take it personally,” Busack said. “We would hope they don’t either, and they still continue to call us when they need our services.”
Parrish said the district intends to do just that, and Busack will remain a “valued vendor of the school district.” The company is scheduled to complete a project with the technology department next Wednesday.