Essex County

MTA seeks to legalize teachers strikes

HAVERHILL, Mass. — In Haverhill and Malden, the current school year started with teachers not in the classroom, but on the picket line.

Teachers strikes in Massachusetts are illegal.

The Haverhill strike, which lasted four days, wound up in court, with a judge levying large fines against striking teachers.

The Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA), the largest teacher’s union, is seeking to change state law and legalize teachers strikes.

“Essentially, the employer has all the cards and can just delay and delay and delay and not really bargain in good faith,” said Max Page, president of the MTA.

“We think, returning the right to strike will level the playing field, provide greater balance between the employer, the school committee, and the educators and their unions.”

Only a few states in the country allow teachers to strike. In Massachusetts, administrators says they are concerned about the impact teacher strikes can have on students.

In December, at the most recent meeting of the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley strongly pushed back on the idea of legalized teacher strikes.

“I’m a supporter of collective bargaining rights, but I think this is a bridge too far at this time, and our focus needs to be on the kids. The kids need to be in school,” Commissioner Riley told the board.

That’s a sentiment the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents shares.

“I have total respect and understanding of what their issues and concerns and needs are. They work hard, they deserve fairness in terms of working conditions and salary and employment. But there has got to be better ways than disrupting the lives of kids,” Tom Scott, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents told Bob Ward.

The MTA is introducing its legislation at the State House in the coming weeks.

It would give teachers the right to strike if both sides can’t come to terms after six months of negotiation.

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