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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Burlington Teachers Vote to Strike if Next Negotiating Session Fails

Posted By on Thu, Oct 13, 2016 at 7:00 PM

click to enlarge Burlington teachers picketing last month. - MOLLY WALSH
  • Molly Walsh
  • Burlington teachers picketing last month.
Updated at 9:32 p.m. to include a statement from the school board.

They'll give it one more shot.

Burlington teachers voted overwhelmingly Thursday to strike if negotiations with the Burlington School Board fail next week. The last-ditch session is scheduled for Wednesday. Teachers won't show for work next Thursday if a negotiated settlement isn't reached, according to Burlington Education Association president Fran Brock.

"We did not ever think it would come to this," Brock said Thursday afternoon following the union's vote, "but the leadership of this board has decided that division, political gamesmanship, and walking away and imposing employment conditions was a better course than settling during more than a year of talks." 

Some 96 percent of the 400 teachers voted in favor of the strike, Brock told Seven Days.

The vote comes after the school board last month imposed terms of pay and benefits on the teachers' union. The employment policy gives teachers a 2.75 percent raise and an average salary increase of $1,900 for the year. The Burlington Education Association had most recently called for a 3.25 percent increase.

The two sides spent more than a year negotiating a new contract before the board imposed the terms. The union filed a grievance and the school board agreed this week to return to the table October 19. Ira Lobel will mediate the discussions. 

"As indicated previously, for the current year contract, there is no additional money available to allocate to teacher salaries," board member Miriam Stoll said in a statement posted Wednesday on Front Porch Forum. "However, the Board is able to consider possible ways to reallocate the monies targeted to teacher compensation in the current budget to better generate agreement. In addition, the Board is ready to discuss any topic pertaining to negotiations for the next contract year."

"Teachers take this action with thoughtfulness and sadness," Brock said in a statement she read to reporters. "We are acutely aware that a strike is disruptive for students, families and for the community. But we can no longer stand by and allow the school board to continue to demean us, to disrespect us, to devalue us and the teaching profession."

The school board was scheduled to meet Thursday night at Edmunds Middle School. Brock planned to attend and to read the statement during the public comment period.

Later Thursday, the board issued a statement, saying it's "very disappointed" in the strike vote after the board made a "reasonable and fair" final offer.

"It is unfortunate that teachers feel that an average salary increase of over $1,900 — almost three times the cost of living — is somehow unfair and disrespectful," the statement reads. "We hope the teachers will reevaluate their decision to threaten to strike and not disrupt the education of the city's children."

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Sasha Goldstein

Sasha Goldstein

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Sasha Goldstein is Seven Days' deputy news editor.

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