Seattle teachers went on a contract-related strike Wednesday, Sept 9, which was supposed to be the first day of school for about 52,000 students, the Seattle Times reports. No deal had been struck by Friday, and classes were cancelled for the rest of the week.
The action, which has no legal basis but no legal penalties either, was the first walk-out by teachers in more than 30 years. Washington is one of 13 states where teachers can go on strike, although, unlike Illinois, California, or Pennsylvania, striking by teachers has met with opposition from courts.
Every time a school district has taken a teachers’ union to court in the state to demand the teachers return to work, the court has ruled in favor of the district, having found no legal authority of teachers’ unions in the state to authorize a strike. But because Washington state law prescribes no penalties either, courts have had to enforce their orders by fining teachers for defying a court order, since imposing any legal penalty for strike action would be illegal.
On Sept 11, in honor of Patriot Day, teachers decided to perform community service projects instead of walking picket lines for the third day in a row.
Teachers say they haven’t received a cost-of-living pay raise in about six years and struggle to live in a city that has quickly become a hub for high-tech industry, which drives up the cost of home ownership and rental.
Wisconsin Gov Scott Walker, known for several strokes of union reform in his home state, criticized the teachers on his presidential campaign website, saying, “They’ve demanded an 18 percent raise, rejecting a generous offer of 9 percent. … The union bosses are betting that if they can make parents and children suffer, they can get what they want. … It’s time to put a stop to this type of organized extortion, just like we did in Wisconsin.”
Speaking Thursday at Ronald Reagan’s alma mater in Eureka, Ill., Mr Walker pledged, if he’s elected, to “stop the government from taking money out of the paychecks of federal employees for political union dues,” thereby protecting “workers from being forced to give money to candidates they don’t support.” Laura Nightengale has the story in the Peoria Journal-Star.