Question Everything: Why are teachers able to strike if it's illegal in Massachusetts?
WOBURN - Even though it's illegal for teachers to strike in Massachusetts, students in Woburn missed classes Monday while teachers gathered downtown with signs demanding better pay for paraprofessionals.
"We know this is an illegal strike," said Woburn Teachers' Association president Barbara Locke. "We want to be in our classroom right now. We don't want to be right here."
While both sides were at the negotiating table, city and state attorneys asked a judge to order an end to the strike with an injunction that would impose fines if it continues.
"I think I'd be quarterbacking the Super Bowl before teachers are given the right to strike," said Glenn Koocher, who heads the Massachusetts Association of School Committees. "Public employees do not have that right in Massachusetts," he said.
But that law has not prevented the strike in Woburn, and other recent strikes in Brookline, Malden, and Haverhill, where the teachers union had to pay $250,000 for strike costs, plus another $110,000 court fine. "It's never good for kids who are supposed to be in school, not to be in school," said Koocher.
Legal expert Nicholas Dominello says the fines are not enough to deter striking teachers. "They're paying a one-time fine. Typically, it's around $50,000 dollars. In some cases it's more, in some cases it's less," he said. "Then it results in the union receiving a forever benefit, higher wages that are perpetually in their collective bargaining agreement going forward."
Massachusetts State Senator Becca Rausch recently refiled proposed legislation that would legalize teacher strikes. "The right to strike is a really basic one of the most fundamental elements of organized workers' rights," she said. "The folks who are fighting hard are fighting hard for our teachers, not just our teachers, our families, our students," she said.
While experts say it's unlikely the law against teacher strikes will change, either way, they're still happening.
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