Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tacoma Teachers Strike Continues Into Day 7

Huck/Konopacki Labor Cartoons
Many people wonder what the point is of going on strike. Job actions of any sort are risky. If they continue too long, workers lose pay and sometimes risk punitive measures, including the possibility of losing their jobs. Furthermore, it’s hard work to organize and mobilize large numbers of workers, particularly when they are service workers like teachers and nurses who care deeply about their clients’ wellbeing.

On the other hand, strikes are the most effective tool for pressuring bosses to concede to workers’ demands. In the case of the Tacoma teachers, who are still currently on strike, their initial efforts have already paid off with a few small concessions by their bosses.

On Sunday, Tacoma Public Schools officials said they would remove some of the contract language on teacher transfers and reassignments that the union opposed, according to the News Tribune. They also agreed to leave the current seniority-based system intact for one more year.

It is certainly not a victory, not even close, as administrators continue to fight for greater control over teacher placements and their demand to end seniority the following school year. They also continue to insist that teachers give up pay for three days.

Fortunately, the teachers realize they can do better and that they are currently in the position of power. Consequently, they have continued their strike into this week, despite the minor concessions by their bosses. On Monday, many pedaled around the city on a “bike strike.”

Meanwhile, Pierce County Judge Bryan Chushcoff threatened to authorize the hiring of replacement workers. However, the school district said they did not make this request and didn’t want replacement workers.

Of course they shouldn’t want replacement workers as they would most likely be uncredentialed substitutes who have little or no training in actual teaching, which would be a terrible disservice to students. Furthermore, the district only has around 600 substitutes, which is nowhere near sufficient to cover all the empty classrooms.

Chushcoff has also issued contempt of court notices to all striking teachers for violating the no-strike order he issued on Friday, Reuters reported today. However, negotiations have still not yielded anything that both sides are willing to accept and teachers are expected to stay off the job again Wednesday. The Seattle Post Intelligencer reported tonight that the school district has already cancelled classes for Wednesday in anticipation, marking the 7th day of the strike.

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