Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Massachusetts Teachers Illegal Strike?

Massachusetts teachers in the King Phillip Regional School District, Norfolk County, are protesting a contract dispute with their district over pay, class size and a faulty grading system, by declining to write college recommendations. The district has filed a petition with the state’s Department of Labor, claiming that the action constitutes an illegal strike. In Massachusetts, it is illegal for teachers to strike.

The strike is one of the most powerful weapons workers have in their ongoing struggle with bosses. Without this weapon, workers are significantly limited in the effectiveness of their actions. On the other hand, workers must also recognize that the legality of their actions should not limit their use. Unions themselves were once illegal. Thousands of workers have been jailed, deported, beaten or killed in this country taking illegal job actions in the fight for better pay, working conditions and respect.

If their action is ruled illegal, it would imply that few, if any job actions are legal for teachers under Massachusetts law. This would completely eviscerate their union. Collective bargaining is only as effective as the tactics of protest. If a bargaining team makes a demand and the bosses say no, the members must take a job action powerful enough to force the bosses to give in. If all job actions are considered illegal strikes, Massachusetts teachers will have no choice but to break the law in defense of their wages, working conditions and dignity.

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