Seattle union backs away from strike action; agrees to allow children to attend school on time
Last night, executives at Seattle's powerful teachers union decided to back away from their threatened strike action and allow Seattle's 50,000 public school children to attend classes on time. Over the Labor Day weekend parents across the city had been making alternative child care arrangements in case the union followed through on plans to close schools to students.
The union and District officials settled on a two-year contract agreement. I have just finished reading the new agreement. Here are its key terms:
- Under the new contract the District will increase teacher pay over the next two years by 6.35%, about 1% more than the 5.3% increase the District had previously offered. Average total pay under the expiring contract is $69,590 a year (though many teachers make considerably more, up to $85,000).
- Under the new contract the District will pay some of the highest teacher salaries in the state. Under the previous contract, Seattle District paid the third-highest teacher salaries in the state, as this chart shows.
- The new contract will provide salary and benefits for a ten-month work year.
- The new contract requires elementary teachers to increase the work-day from 7 hours to 7.5 hours, bringing them in line with work-day requirements for other teachers in the district, although still less than the 8-hour day typical in the private sector.
- Under the new contract the District will continue to pay for generous dental, vision, medical and life/long term disability insurance, liability insurance, and state pension benefits for teachers.
- Under the new contract the District will provide teachers three planning days when no students are allowed to come to school.
- Under the new contract the District will provide five short school days, when students are sent home early.
- Under the new contract the District will provide teachers 10 paid sick days, and two days of paid personal leave.
- Under the new contract the District will pay teachers cash for unused leave days.
- Under the new contract the District will provide seven paid holidays, a two-week winter break, a one-week mid-winter break, and a one-week spring break.
- District and union rules will continue to provide teachers long-term job security. Firing a Seattle school teacher is very difficult, even in cases where they assault students.
These contract terms are very similar to ones District and union officials discussed last week. However, union executives appeared to be using time pressure and the threat of a last-minute strike as leverage in the negotiations. Late last night parents received automated phone calls informing them schools would be open in the morning, causing them to cancel child care arrangements made hastily over the weekend.
Strikes by public school teachers are illegal in Washington. Washington Policy Center recommends union executives and education officials adopt an effective no-strike policy to avoid the worry a strike causes to families and the threat it poses to children's education. Union executives say their strike threats are about fairness and respect, yet they seem less concerned about showing respect to Seattle parents and their children. It's good news that Seattle schools will open on time this year.