Seattle Teachers OK Offer, Ending 25-Day-Old Strike
Seattle teachers voted Saturday to accept an $8.4-million contract offer and end the nation’s largest teacher strike, a 25-day-old walkout that has delayed the opening of school for 43,500 students.
The approval, on a nearly unanimous voice vote in the Seattle Opera House, had been recommended by the Seattle Teachers Assn., which represents 3,700 teachers and staff members.
Teachers will return to work Monday to prepare for the opening of classes on Tuesday. The school board is expected to rubber-stamp the agreement when it meets Wednesday.
Teacher strikes continue in four states, and are affecting more than 36,000 students--31,765 in Pennsylvania, 3,300 in New Jersey, 800 in Illinois and 800 in Ohio.
Tentative agreement on the Seattle contract was reached late Thursday, after three days of intense talks headed by Gov. Booth Gardner, who called negotiators for both sides to Olympia.
Unlike other teacher walkouts around the country, the Seattle strike did not involve basic teacher salaries because state law fixes their pay scales.
The contract contained $3 million to help reduce the size of classes, to add three extra work days--at more than $204 a day--to pay teachers beyond their 182-day contract and to add extra money for non-teaching personnel.
The package includes a provision exempting certain teachers involved in special programs from seniority rules, something the Seattle School Board insisted on over vehement objections from the teachers.
Before the governor stepped into negotiations on Sept. 22, shuttling secretly between the board and the union, the district had held firm to its last public offer of a $7.1-million package of benefits for one year. The teachers had sought a $9.2-million package for each of two years.
Under pressure from Gardner to settle the dispute, the two sides split the difference and ended up with the $8.4-million, one-year agreement.