Several local school districts may be facing strikes by teachers this school year. Wednesday night, teachers in Kent voted overwhelmingly (86%) to authorize a strike.
As Mike Reitz at the Evergreen Freedom Foundation points out: Public employee strikes are illegal in Washington, and teachers fall within this category. There is growing consensus that teachers strikes are not only illegal, but bad for communities and bad for education policy. There are serious, legitimate issues on the bargaining table â€“ teachers have valid concerns and districts have real constraints. These issues should be dealt with candidly and openly. Walking out of the classroom, however, escalates the discussion into a combative, fix-it-at-all-costs scenario.
The legal prohibition, however, doesnâ€™t prevent teacher unions from declaring strikes and winning significant bargaining concessions from school districts. The tactic is effective, which is why unions employ it year after year. Every once in a while a teacher union is taken to court, and the court usually terminates the strike. (Note that the Washington Education Association, while claiming strikes are legal, has never tested this theory in appellate court.)
Until someone confronts the union, they will continue to employ the strike tactic. School districts, unfortunately, are very reluctant to take that step.
Even in the best of economic times, the teachers' strikes are ill-advised because of their illegality. But when we have a real unemployment rate of between 16-18% in our country (not the 9.4% that's commonly reported) it's unfathomable to me that the teachers are doing this to the struggling families in their districts.
But for the teachers, there is zero economic downside to a strike. State law calls for a 180-day school year. No matter how long they're out, they will still teach - and get paid for - a full school year. It just may drag into next July.
I've gotten several e-mails from listeners in Kent, Lake Stevens and Everett - districts that are facing possible strikes - that would like to see the teachers fired for their illegal strikes. As listener Jan said, "Reagan did it to the air traffic controllers. Gregoire should do that to the teachers".
Of course that would never happen in our state - the teacher's union has bought and paid for much of state government. But what do you think of that idea?