An effort is underway in Massachusetts to legalize the right to strike for some public employees — including teachers.
Woburn teacher strike ends; classes to resume Monday
The push to give educators and other unionized employees in the public sector — excluding public safety workers like police and fire — the right to go on strike began in the last session of the state Legislature. A new iteration of the proposal, “An Act uplifting families and securing the right to strike for certain public employees,” was filed last month as a companion bill in both the Senate and House. The legislation would allow unions to legally strike after six months of failed negotiations with their employers.
Twelve states, including Vermont and California, give public school educators the right to strike, according to the Massachusetts Teachers Association, which has named the proposal in the Bay State one of its legislative priorities for 2023-2024.
The move comes as the start of the year saw teachers go on strike in Woburn for a week after more than a year of talks failed to produce an agreement for a new contract. Schools were closed in the city for five days as negotiations stretched on.
Because the strike was illegal, the union was subject to thousands of dollars in fines. Ultimately, the union accumulated up to $85,000 in fines from the state; it also agreed to pay $225,000 in damages to the city over four years and $20,000 to local charities, the Boston Herald reports.
The union has reached out to the community for help in the face of those costs, and so far, families and businesses in the city have responded, with more than $50,000 pouring in to the GoFundMe fundraiser started for the educators. The Woburn Teachers Association has said the encouragement received from parents and other members of the community through their strike kept them “strong and affirmed that [they] were doing the right thing.”
Yet, there remains debate in Massachusetts about whether teachers and other unionized public sector employees should legally have the right to strike.Supporters of the proposal say the measure is needed to level the playing field at the bargaining table, while opponents argue it is a bullying tactic that will only hurt students and families.
What those in opposition say
Glenn Koocher, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, said there are a number of reasons for opposing the proposal, saying his group has a “serious problem with giving public employees the right to strike.”
“Number one, when teachers strike, they strike against the interests of children and their families,” Koocher told Boston.com. “And that is counterintuitive to the fact that teachers already have strong collective bargaining rights that put all the parties at the table, that requires that all issues be discussed, and that there’s a process for conflict resolution.”
Koocher said the argument from those pushing for the right to strike — that it’s needed to break gridlock in negotiations — is just an advocacy tactic to “sway public opinion or to mobilize [their] base.”
School committees, meanwhile, are concerned about preserving the workforce and preserving positions, he said.
“The unions want to position themselves as being in charge or calling the shots and demanding that the management side of the table compromise its management rights,” said Koocher.
School committees aren’t alone in their objections to the proposal.
Gov. Maura Healey said in recent weeks she is opposed to legalizing the right to strike for teachers and other public sector employees. She told WBZ she wants workers to get the compensation they deserve but that it is “paramount” that kids are in school.
“I’ve come to this … as the proud daughter of educators, I think we should be doing everything we can to support our educators, particularly in this time and what so many have been through with COVID,” Healey told WBZ’s Jon Keller. “A lot of strain on our educators, also a lot of strain on our kids and families. Every day when I see kids out of school because of a strike, my heart just breaks because kids have been through enough in terms of learning loss and the like.”
State Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley has also blasted the push for strikes, according to the Boston Globe.
“I want to be clear I’m a supporter of collective bargaining rights, but I just think this is a bridge too far at this time,” Riley said at a December state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meeting. “Our focus needs to be on the kids. The kids need to be in school.”
Koocher said he understands that teachers may be frustrated and angry and “realize that some people get paid more than others depending upon the district.”
“But still, it’s a matter of using the collective bargaining process rather than the bullying tactics of a strike, which are not only bullying, but are also illegal,” he said.
Who, he questioned, will make it up to students when schools are closed for strikes?
“They’re going to be going to school later in June because they have to make up the days,” he said of Woburn students. “So think about the kids who may not be able to get to summer camp or may not be able to get to their summer school or their summer jobs or stuff because they’re making up the days because of the teachers strike. Or the kids who are home and whose parents have to quickly make shifts and adjustments to accommodate that.”
Despite the push to move the legislation forward, Koocher said he “finds it hard to believe” that lawmakers would give teachers unions the right to strike “against the best interests of students and families.”
He also said he doesn’t believe the public is in favor of giving teachers the right to strike.
What those in favor say
State Sen. Becca Rausch, whose district includes parts of Middlesex, Norfolk, and Worcester counties, filed the senate version of the bill, while Reps. Mike Connolly and Erika Uyterhoeven did so for the house version.
The proposal is “important for so many reasons,” Rausch told Boston.com.
“The right to strike is one of the most fundamental, central rights of workers, collective action by workers that we have,” she said. “And [we’re] seeing that importance play out recently where results are swifter and more effective and more beneficial to students and families where strikes have occurred or where strikes have been voted on to occur and then a negotiated result happens very quickly.”
Not every community in the state is fortunate to have a school district with significant resources, she said, emphasizing that supporters of the legislation want students to have “all the support that they need to learn.”
Rausch said that personally, as someone who worked as a public sector unionized employee in the executive branch before she took office, and whose dad was also a public sector unionized employee, she knows the importance of unions.
Anyone who is working in the public sector as part of a union deserves the right to say they won’t put up with not having a new contract, she said.
“Most people working in the public sector are not making what the equivalent would be in a private sector position, but people are coming in doing public service,” she said. “They deserve to be able to get a contract renewal more often than every 20 years. That’s an extreme example, but there are instances of three years, five years. We know economics change a lot faster than that.”
The argument from opponents — that the legislation would negatively impact students and is a bridge too far beyond existing collective bargaining rights — “relies on a misunderstanding of the power dynamic that exists between employers and employees,” she said.
The power dynamic inherently favors the employer, Rausch said.
“Providing a pathway to strike as a last resort, that only provides mutually expected ground rules but also equalizes the negotiating power between the bodies,” she said. “I also think the argument that it’s detrimental to students misunderstands both the nature of what we’re seeing unfold in various school districts across the commonwealth and also what the parents and families themselves are saying.”
Rausch argued that in Woburn there was “overwhelming” support for the teachers by parents and families while they were on strike.
The state senator said that as a parent she understands the concerns about how families could be impacted by school closures during a strike, about what it might mean for families to not have the regular programming available for kids.
“We still need to be able to empower public sector employees to stand up for themselves, on equal footing with another party,” she said. “But also, and in the case of education, much more importantly, to be able to stand up for their students and the families that they are there to teach and support. And that’s what we’re seeing.”
She also emphasized that education, and childcare more broadly, remains a largely gendered profession.
According to data from 2018 released by the National Center for Education Statistics, 76 percent of public school teachers in the United States were female during the 2017-2018 school year, while 24 percent were male.
“Teachers teach; they also take care of kids all day long, as parents go off to do a lot of things,” Rausch said. “It is a great responsibility, and it is gendered. And I think we do a disservice to the conversation if we overlook the fact that childcare in all of its manifestations, including educating children, has historically been considered women’s work. And that is an aspect of this conversation that we really need to see and recognize its significance.”
Compared to the last session when the proposal was initially introduced and got “basically zero attention,” Rausch said she thinks the landscape has changed with the start of the new session and the new year.
In Melrose, there was an authorization vote for a strike that ended up not going forward because a resolution then quickly came together.
“There’s been a little more time for folks to get to know the issue and to have conversations about it,” she said. “It’s certainly being discussed quite significantly now, which is going to help not just the members of the Legislature but parents, school committees, and members of the general public to be engaged in that conversation. And that is a very important part of the legislative process.”
Should teachers have the right to strike?
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Without the right to strike, unions cannot represent their members effectively and education will suffer in competition with other interest groups.Do public sector employees have the right to strike? ›
There is no federal law giving public-sector workers the right to strike, but a dozen states have enacted laws giving public-sector workers certain strike rights, including Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Minnesota, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Vermont.What is the no strike clause in Massachusetts? ›
Section 9A(a) of the Law prohibits public employees and employee organizations from striking or inducing, encouraging, or condoning a work stoppage by public employees.What is an employee who wants to work instead of strike has the legal right to? ›
An employee who wants to work instead of strike has the legal right to: Cross their own union's picket line but not another union's picket line.Why should people be allowed to strike? ›
The right to strike would enable fairer negotiations between public workers and the government. All of us have reason to support that outcome. Research shows that union negotiations set the bar for working conditions with other employers.Is it illegal for teachers to strike in Massachusetts? ›
Massachusetts is one of dozens of states where public employees and public employee organizations are prohibited from striking, and advocates for years have been unsuccessful at convincing a critical mass of lawmakers to support changing the status quo.Why is the right to strike limited in the public sector? ›
The right to strike is limited in the public sector because it is not regulated by the National Labor Relations Act and states have different laws surrounding strikes. In federal law there is only a right to engage in collective bargaining.Are strikes not allowed in the public sector? ›
The prohibition of the public sector strikes is due to the fact that they do not coincide with the proper government functioning.How do you support striking workers? ›
- Send your solidarity. Fill in the form on the webpage below to send your messages support and solidarity to striking workers. ...
- #PutNHSPayRight. ...
- Write to your MP. ...
- Honk those horns. ...
- Keep up to date.
The legislation expanded the number of felonies that can result in life-without-parole sentences and, harshly, mandates that anyone who is convicted of a third-offense violent felony must serve the full maximum prison sentence for that crime without the potential for parole; in many cases, this means life in prison for ...
The “Three Strikes” law states that a person shall get a strike on their criminal record if they are convicted of a serious violent felony in a federal court of law. According to the statute, the following acts are serious violent felonies: Murder or manslaughter. Rape.Can you collect unemployment if you are on strike in Massachusetts? ›
Under Massachusetts Law, strikers are entitled to unemployment benefits (which has medical insurance benefits now), unless the strike is deemed to have a substantial impact on production/services. Strikers are disqualified from unemployment benefits only when a strike is causing a stoppage of services.Do you get paid while on strike? ›
Employees who go on strike will not usually get their pay or other contractual benefits like pension contributions. In some circumstances, they might get money from their union. This is sometimes called strike pay.Can a union force you to strike? ›
Under the National Labor Relations Act you have a right to strike as well as a right not to strike. If the employer continues to operate during the strike, you need to decide what to do based on your own needs. Don't let anyone coerce you one way or the other.Are unfair labor practice strikes legal? ›
Under California law, the Public Employees Relations Board (PERB) adjudicates claims of Unfair Labor Practices Unions and can impose financial and legal penalties. Workers are also allowed to strike over ULPs in order to protest their employer's labor law violations.What are the disadvantages of a strike for employees? ›
EFFECTS ON EMPLOYEES
Striking Employees that belong to a union are under obligation to strike when the union determines. They could be at risk of losing not only wages but benefits such as medical aid insurance, sick and holiday pay if the strike drags on for an extended period of time.
A strike may consist of workers refusing to attend work or picketing outside the workplace to prevent or dissuade people from working in their place or conducting business with their employer. Less frequently workers may occupy the workplace, but refuse either to do their jobs or to leave.What makes a strike illegal? ›
A strike may be unlawful because an object, or purpose, of the strike is unlawful. A strike in support of a union unfair labor practice, or one that would cause an employer to commit an unfair labor practice, may be a strike for an unlawful object.What states is it illegal for teachers to strike? ›
Legality. The legality of teacher strikes vary from state to state. Collective bargaining by public sector employees and therefore teachers is explicitly illegal in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia. 12 states have explicitly stated that teacher strikes are legal.Can a teacher get fired for yelling at you? ›
Tenured public school teachers have legal protection from arbitrary dismissal in most states. His classroom was always a laugh riot. A whole lot of students were crying that day because he was an amazing guy. A teacher CAN get fired for routinely yelling at elementary and high school students.
Gifts: Public employees, including teachers, are prohibited by Sections 3 and 23(b)(2) of the conflict of interest law from accepting gifts worth $50 or more that are given to them because of the position they hold, or because of some action they could take or have taken in their position.Why is there no strike agreement? ›
This means the union must discuss the matter in good faith with the employer and explain its objections. Nothing in the NLRA, however, requires a union to agree to a no-strike clause. Moreover, because a no-strike clause is a mandatory subject of bargaining, the union may strike to keep it out of the contract.Can strike be justified? ›
A strike is legal if it does not violate any provision of the statute. It cannot be said to be unjustified unless the reasons for it are entirely perverse or unreasonable. Whether particular strike is justified or not is a question of fact, which has to be judged in the light of the fact and circumstances of each case.Can I strike if not in a union? ›
"As long as the industrial action is lawful, non-union members are allowed to go on strike and remain protected from dismissal," she says.What is the difference between protected strike and unprotected strike? ›
An unprotected strike, as the name suggests, does not enjoy the same protection and regulations that protect the employee as a protected strike. An Employer may find that an employee who participated in an unprotected strike actions to amount to serious misconduct which may result in dismissal from the company.How can we stop workers from going on strike? ›
- Bridge the worker-management divide. ...
- Practice empathy. ...
- Maintain a positive attitude. ...
- Allow for worker autonomy. ...
- Provide employees with the information they need. ...
- Consider appearances. ...
- Consider employee safety.
Throughout the country's history, American workers in a variety of fields have held strikes demanding higher pay, more manageable work hours, better contracts and benefits, and improved working conditions.How should employers respond to strikes? ›
Employers must react to these strikes carefully since a careless move could lead to further problems, and strikes can often escalate to violence if an employer reacts negatively. Therefore, the employer must pay attention to the workers' requests and pick the best course of action after consulting with their team.What are three strikes policies? ›
The Three Strikes law significantly increases the prison sentences of persons convicted of felonies who have been previously convicted of a violent or serious felony, and limits the ability of these offenders to receive a punishment other than a prison sentence.What are the exceptions to the Three Strikes law? ›
There are some exceptions to the Three Strikes Law. If a person is convicted of a non-violent felony and has two priors for nonviolent felonies, they may not be subject to the 25-year-to-life sentence. Additionally, juvenile offenders are sometimes not subject to the law.
The law was put in place in 1994 but has been amended since then. In 2012, voters in California passed Proposition 36, which stated that the Three Strikes Law punishes only felons with a third conviction of serious or violent felonies. Although this seems very similar to the penal code, it allows for some exceptions.When did the 3 strike law end? ›
In 1994, California legislators and voters approved a major change in the state's criminal sentencing law, (commonly known as Three Strikes and You're Out).Is three-strikes law a federal law? ›
Under the federal "Three Strikes" provision, which is now codified at 18 U.S.C. § 3559(c), the defendant receives mandatory life imprisonment if he or she: is convicted in federal court of a "serious violent felony" and.Which states do not have the 3 strike law? ›
Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee are the only states in the United States to date that have "two strikes" laws for the most serious violent crimes, such as murder, rape, serious cases of robbery, etc.Can you go back to work after a strike? ›
Make sure that the strike is indeed over and that it is OK for you to return to work. If you cross the picket line, thinking the strike is over when it's not, you may incur fines -- and worse, harassment by other strikers -- for doing so.Is striking a constitutional right? ›
Section 7 of the Act states in part, “Employees shall have the right. . . to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” Strikes are included among the concerted activities protected for employees by this section.What disqualifies you from unemployment in Massachusetts? ›
Who is not eligible. You may not be eligible for Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits if your only source of employment is from working as: An employee of a non-profit or religious organization. A worker trainee in a program run by a nonprofit or public institution.What is typical strike pay? ›
Strike pays the lowest earners $19,000 a year, while the top 10 percent are paid over $52,000. The department you work in can have an impact on your salary as well.Do you get back pay after a strike? ›
You will receive your final pay check for the last pay period including any overtime you worked, minus the days you are on strike. You cannot collect unemployment. If any strike lasts longer than five days, you will receive a union strike cash benefit to be determined by the International Union (OPEIU).How long does strike take to pay out? ›
All payments appear in your Strikepay account instantly and withdrawal to your own bank account is available daily - a win-win!
Today, the UAW International Executive Board unanimously approved increasing strike pay from $400 to $500 per week. This increase reflects the effects of continuing inflation as well as the need for our union to prepare for an important bargaining year affecting multiple sectors and employers.What is the longest strike in US history? ›
The largest strike in U.S. history was the Steel Strike of 1959, which lasted 116 days between July and November of 1959. The strike involved half a million workers and members of the United Steelworks of America union due to a dispute over wages and changes to workplace rules.What happens if a union member crosses the picket line? ›
Union members can be disciplined by their union for crossing a picket line but unions may not discipline members if refusing to cross a picket line clearly violates the no-strike clause of the contract the covers the member in question. National Labor Relations Act Section 7 codified at 29 U.S.C. §157.What are the 5 unfair labor practices of employers? ›
- Interference, restraint, or coercion. ...
- Employer domination or support of a labor organization. ...
- Discrimination on the basis of labor activity. ...
- Discrimination in retaliation for going to the NLRB. ...
- Refusal to bargain.
An employer who dismissed a number of employees for the same or similar reasons has offered to re-employ one or more of them but has refused to re-employ another. An employee terminated employment with or without notice because the employer made continued employment intolerable for the employee.What is it called when workers refuse to work? ›
strike - where workers refuse to work for the employer.Do teachers have a constitutional right to join a union? ›
But unlike private sector employees, public school teachers have no federal rights to collective bargaining or to strike. Any such protections are matters of state law, subject to change.Do teachers have the right to strike quizlet? ›
Depends on state law. Some states have granted teachers a limited right to strike; most, however, prohibit strikes.How do unions protect teachers? ›
For educators, collective bargaining rights mean they can negotiate fair pay and benefits, including health care, pensions, and paid leave, as well as improved working and learning conditions.Why can't Texas teachers go on strike? ›
Texas Law. This statute prohibits public employees from engaging in strikes or organized work stoppage against the state. This statute restricts a public employee's ability to engage in collective bargaining.
Legality. The legality of teacher strikes vary from state to state. Collective bargaining by public sector employees and therefore teachers is explicitly illegal in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia. 12 states have explicitly stated that teacher strikes are legal.What federal laws protect teachers? ›
Teachers are protected from certain harms under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution. Teachers have the right to be free from discrimination based on race, sex, and national origin -- as well as freedom of expression, academics, privacy, and religion.Why should teachers be part of the union? ›
Legal Support for Teachers
Teachers' unions provide legal advice as well as representation in a variety of situations. For example, teachers' unions provide legal representation to teachers who become involved in some sort of lawsuit arising from the course of their employment.
Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act states in part, “Employees shall have the right. . . to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” Strikes are included among the concerted activities protected for employees by this section.What is the three strike rule in classroom? ›
The 3-Strike Method for Discipling Children. Basically, a strike is a verbal warning for bad behavior. Every day, each child is allowed three strikes, or three verbal warnings before they lose a privilege.Does a teacher have the right to engage? ›
A teacher has the right to engage, directly or indirectly, in legitimate income generation; provided that it does not relate to or adversely affect his work as a teacher.What is the argument against teacher unions? ›
the State of California. In this case, attorneys representing public school students argued that union negotiated work rules harmed their ability to receive a quality education. In particular, they questioned rules governing tenure (too soon), dismissals (too hard), and layoffs (based on seniority instead of merit).How do unions affect teachers education? ›
The positive union effect on teacher stress may be driven by unions' role as “teacher voice.” Teachers' unions provide more supportive leadership relationships, improved school climate, advocacy for professional development, and increased teacher morale.Why are teacher unions criticized? ›
Many critics of unions believe that collective bargaining has created a tangled web of rules that keep public schools from being able to respond to the changing needs of students and that the bargaining process has influenced public education more than any other factor.Why are there no teachers unions in Texas? ›
Texas' status as a “right-to-work” state means union membership isn't compulsory — not illegal. That said, Texas is one of only a handful of states that denies collective bargaining to public employees. So our employment contracts generally are dictated to us by our local school boards.
- Refusing to show up at work and picketing outside the workplace.
- Showing up at their workplace but refusing to either do their job or leave the location.
- Rallying and protesting outside the workplace.
While Texas and the rest of the country have dealt with teacher shortages for years, the pandemic exacerbated them. Shifting requirements on masking and the closure then reopening of schools have taken a toll on teachers.