The Seattle teachers’ union launched an illegal strike today, the scheduled start of school. The union made the announcement Tuesday evening, leaving parents little time to make other necessary arrangements for their children who won’t be in school today.
Fortunately, it did not take long for the Seattle School Board to respond. Minutes after the announcement, the board voted to grant the superintendent authority to seek legal action to force teachers back to work. The resolution also gives the superintendent the ability to close or limit school employees’ access to school buildings. The Seattle Times reports,
“The union’s decision, and the district’s response, came after the two sides swapped last-minute offers and counteroffers, hoping to reach an agreement before Wednesday’s scheduled start of classes for the city’s 53,000 public-school students.
“Shortly before midnight Monday, the district had offered a $62 million proposal as counter to the $172 million union proposal, according to the district.
“On Tuesday afternoon, the union presented a counteroffer, which the district said it was considering. The district then offered another proposal to the union at about 6 p.m. A half-hour later, the union announced its 5,000 members — teachers and other school employees such as nurses, instructional assistants and office secretaries — would go on strike.”
Union leaders are justifying the illegal strike by claiming the district’s offer did not “include competitive pay increases.” Of course, “competitive” to union executives appears to be the 16.8 percent wage increase they demanded over the weekend—originally they demanded a 21 percent increase.
Seattle Education Association President Jonathan Knapp called the school board’s decision to pursue legal action “disappointing” and claimed that the board is “grasping at legalistic straws rather than focusing on ways to provide the support that educators need to be successful with students.” How exactly keeping children out of school and forcing working families to find and pay additional childcare expenses translates into success for students is unclear.
The school board, on the other hand, sees it a much different way. The board’s resolution states, “A strike for any reason by District teachers or other personnel is harmful and damaging to the District, our students, and our community.” The truth is that illegal teachers’ strikes deliberately hurt students and harm communities. And, the school board is doing something about it.
The Pasco teachers’ union continues to defy a court order to return to work. A judge has decided to delay court action until Friday. If by Friday teachers are not back to work, the judge is considering leveling $250 per day fine against the Pasco Association of Educators.
Seattle parents can only hope that their school district superintendent will take similar legal action, in hopes of finding a King County judge that will find the strike illegal, and get the schools opened.