The Spokane teachers’ union is the latest labor group to threaten an illegal strike if the school district does not acquiesce to contract demands. The illegal strike would begin September 4th, closing Spokane schools for 30,200 students just in time for the first week.
According to the Washington Policy Center, it is unclear what the union is demanding. More than likely, it is “seeking a raise on top of the 3% cost of living pay raise the state legislature has already approved for teachers.” Notably, median household income in Spokane County is $49,233. That pay is “further reduced by local, state and federal taxes that families pay to fund Spokane schools, among other important public services.”
By comparison, according to the latest report from the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the average Spokane teacher’s yearly compensation is $61,256. When taking into account benefits, the average salary is $82,021.
While the details of the Spokane teachers’ union are unknown, it would be difficult for them to be much more ridiculous than the demands being made by the Seattle teachers’ union. Though discussions began in May, the union and the school district have yet to reach an agreement on a new contract. The district has offered a 7% pay increase over three years, in addition to the pay raises granted by the legislature this year. However, the union demanding three times that much for a whopping 21 percent hike over the same period.
Other demands range from a guarantee 45 minutes of added recess to teacher evaluations. The current deal expires tonight. The Seattle teachers’ union has “called for all 5,000 union members to meet on Thursday to vote on a tentative agreement,” assuming there is one. If no tentative agreement exists, teachers could vote to go on an illegal strike.
The Pasco teachers’ union and school district have also yet to reach an agreement, with the union rejecting the district’s latest offer. The union continues to demand an 11 percent pay increase, on top of the 3 percent pay raise the state legislature already approved for teachers, funded in the latest budget.
Pasco schools are scheduled to open on Tuesday. The teachers’ union will meet tonight to “discuss whether they will be going to work Tuesday morning or kick-starting a strike.”
The Pasco school board has taken a no-nonsense approach to the teachers’ union illegal strike threats. Last week, the school board approved a resolution that would “ban striking workers from school grounds and give the superintendent authority to pursue legal action if a strike happens.”
Unions threatening to strike prior to the start of the school year should come as no surprise. Illegal teacher union-led strikes have become a standard expectation for the start of the school year, disrupting working families and negatively impacting children. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a child in Washington State is at a “proportionately greater risk of missing school due to a union walk-out here than in any other state.”
The illegal strikes are just another indication that teachers’ unions place their own interests first. Local teachers unions—along with the WEA—often portray illegal strikes as an effort to benefit the future of our children. Really, illegal strikes are just efforts to benefit unions, at the expense of children.
No matter what union leaders may say to excuse their behavior, school districts, parents and students should take illegal strikes personally. The fact is that teachers’ strikes disproportionately impact poor families as parents scramble to make pricey childcare arrangements and underprivileged children miss out on free lunch programs.
Illegal strikes negatively impact school districts, they place undue strain on working families and they, effectively, punish students—an unjustifiable punishment meant to benefit unions, not children.