It has long been known by both school districts and union officials that teacher strikes are illegal. As Smarter Government Washington pointed out last year around this time, then-Attorney General Rob McKenna had studied the issue significantly while in office, even issued an Attorney General Order on the subject in 2006 and concluded:
“Let’s be clear: Teacher strikes are illegal in Washington. They are not allowed under state law. The same goes for all public employees at the state and local level. The reason doesn’t matter. They’re not legal as a protest. They’re not legal for collective bargaining purposes. They’re not legal under any circumstances.”
Of course, the reason that strikes still happen is that teachers’ union bosses don’t fear the consequences of their illegal actions. There is no defined penalty, and since state law requires 180 days of instruction (more or less), teachers still get paid their full salary, though they may have a few extra days tacked on at the end of the school to offset the days lost to a strike.
And, generally, superintendents and school boards don’t like to take their teachers to court to stop illegal strikes. They just want to get along.
That’s why it’s refreshing to see the leaders of Vancouver’s Evergreen School District take the preemptive step of seeking a court injunction barring the teachers from striking next week, according to The Columbian. Predictably, the union response was a threat:
“The district now has less than a week to negotiate before they can expect schools to be closed for a strike,” the union posted to members on its website Thursday morning. “Your voice is critical in deciding whether (hopefully) to accept a tentative contract agreement, or to go on strike beginning Wednesday.”
Now we’ll see if the Southwest Washington judge hearing this case will rule as every other court has when facing this question – that teacher strikes are indeed illegal.