Tacoma teachers have defied a judge’s order to return to work, forcing the judge to back down. On Tuesday, a judge ordered all teachers back to work or face fines. The teachers ignored the ruling and continued their work stoppage.
Today, according to KOMO News, the same judge said he will not issue any fines and will give teachers until September 27 to reach a deal with their district, approximately the same that a hearing is scheduled to determine if there should be a permanent injunction against them striking.
In a very strong show of militancy, 93% of the 1,600 teachers voted to continue striking, in spite of the court order and the threats. The vote came before the judge conceded and agreed not to impose any fines, showing just how angry and determined the teachers are to defend their rights and working conditions. Furthermore, 19 different judges have ruled teachers’ strikes illegal in Washington State since 1976, making the teachers’ move even more courageous.
By continuing to strike, teachers will be in a much better position to defy a possible injunction at the end of the month and in a better position to win their struggle with their district.
It must be remembered that workers’ really have only one weapon powerful enough to fight their bosses: their ability to withhold their labor. It should also be made clear that teachers rarely go on strike and, when they do, it almost always is with their students’ best interests in mind. In the case of the Tacoma teachers, they are fighting to prevent class sizes from growing, which decreases student safety, one-on-one attention from teachers and their ability to succeed academically. They are also fighting to prevent further cuts to pay and benefits, which directly affects the teachers, but indirectly affects students, as deteriorating pay and benefits drives the best teachers from the district or the profession and reduces the district’s ability to hire and retain the best qualified teachers.
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