TACOMA, Wash. — Teachers in the state of Washington's third-largest school district voted to remain on strike, defying a judge’s order to return to work.
Tacoma School District teachers — members of the Tacoma Education Association — voted to walk out over issues including pay, class size and the handling of job transfers. The district serves more than 28,000 students.
Despite an order to return to class, issued by the state judge on Wednesday Sept. 14, some 93 percent of the nearly 1,600 teachers present at the Tacoma Dome arena protest voted to continue picketing, according to the Associated Press.
The court order came after the Tacoma School District filed a complaint with the Pierce County Superior Court on the first day of the teachers’ strike.
The district asked the court to issue an injunction directing teachers back to work so the “education of Tacoma’s students could continue while the district and union work toward an agreement on labor issues,” according to the district.
The 1,900 teachers had been working without a contract since school started Sept. 1. After weekend contract negotiations failed to result in an agreement, on Monday night, Sept. 12, 87 percent of the union's membership voted to walk out, the Associated Press reports.
On Thursday, Sept. 15, the district and teacher’s association bargaining teams met with a state mediator to resume negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement, according to the district. After learning that teachers declared their intention to remain on strike, district Superintendent Art Jarvis closed down schools for the third day in a row due to insufficient staffing.
“Our team went to the bargaining table to negotiate in good faith,” Jarvis said. “I am extremely disappointed to see that the union regressed in its proposal. The union’s team handed the district this proposal just hours after the state’s economist issued a dire warning that the state budget would face a revenue shortfall of another $1.4 billion over the next two years, and Gov. Gregoire announced that education would take yet another funding hit.”
The Tacoma Education Association reported that, after keeping teachers waiting for 2.5 hours past the scheduled 1:30 p.m. start time on Thursday, Sept. 15, negotiators for the Tacoma School Board did not offer a proposal and failed to offer a response to the teachers’ proposal.
“Wednesday, Judge Bryan Chushcoff ordered Tacoma teachers and the Tacoma School Board to negotiate in good faith as soon as reasonably possible,” association officials said. “Tacoma teachers complied. We can’t say the same for the Tacoma School Board.”