Teacher strikes are illegal; they hurt the children while the adults fight

September 7, 2011

Teacher strikes are illegal.  The Attorney General’s office says:

"In Washington, state and local public employees do not have a legally protected right to strike.  No such right existed at common law, and none has been granted by statute.” http://www.atg.wa.gov/AGOOpinions/Opinion.aspx?section=archive&id=5736

Union executives know that strikes are illegal.  They also know that the law imposes no penalty for closing the public schools by going on strike.  This fall, union executives in Tacoma, Bellevue, Bellingham and other districts have used the threat of strikes to put pressure on elected board members during negotiations over new teacher contracts. Local union executives are following orders from the state teachers’ union, the Washington Education Association (WEA).

Last spring, WEA executives decided to pick some prominent school districts, like Tacoma, Bellevue and Bellingham, and make an example of them. The WEA board of directors adopted a plan to “connect the dots from state cuts to local kids.”  This plan was approved as New Business Item No. 6 at the May 12-14 WEA meeting.  Here is what the plan says:

“Locals [unions] should not agree to eliminate instructional work dates at the end of the school year or those occurring before/after a normal holiday or vacation period. Instead, the eliminated instructional work days should be on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday of a normally scheduled five-day work week.”

This means that local unions should insist that canceled school days occur at times that hurt working families most – a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday during the work week; unions should not agree to close schools on a Monday or a Friday, or near a scheduled holiday.

The plan also says this:

“In the event a district refuses to agree to reduce instructional days, the local association should consider unilaterally determining the dates their members will not report for duty.”

This means that if a school district won’t cancel school days, the local union should plan to strike.

Union executives are also educators.  By threatening to strike, they set a terrible example for  children.   The lesson is this:  threaten to do something illegal to get what you want, especially when you think you can get away with it. 

The real penalty, the loss of learning time, is paid by the children, who sit at home playing video games and watching TV while they wait for school to open.  They lose a day, a week, or more of school.  They learn that if you don’t like something, you walk out in a huff, instead of peacefully working with others to solve problems.

The WEA decided months ago to use strikes to punish children as a way to get pay raises and other collective bargaining concessions.  That’s why state law makes teachers’ strikes illegal.  When the adults are fighting, it’s the children who get hurt.