Strike day two: Tacoma district heading to court to end walkout

Sep 14, 2011

More than 28,000 kids are still locked out of their classrooms today, while school district officials head to court to force teachers back to work.

Tacoma school officials say they think the law is very clear – that public employees, including teachers, have no right to strike.  Their attorneys will argue it means teachers are obligated to do their jobs. That’s just for starters. 

“We believe that this illegal strike is doing irreparable harm to our district and to the community and to the families in our community," said Dan Voelpe, spokesman for Tacoma Public Schools. 

Similar arguments by other Washington school districts have been successful in the past. A couple of years ago, a King County Superior Court judge ordered Kent teachers back to their classrooms. In Marysville in 2003, the state’s longest teachers strike went on for more than a month before a group of parents asked courts to intervene.

Rich Wood is a spokesman for the Tacoma Education Association. He says taking the union’s teachers to court won’t necessarily stop the strike.

“Teachers will decide for themselves what steps to take. They decided whether the school district administration’s contract proposal was adequate. They decided to go on strike.  And they’ll decide when to end the strike and go back into the classroom,” Woods said.

At least a couple of time, teachers have voted to defy court orders. In each case, the union and school district struck a deal before teachers had to pay fines. No matter what the judge decides in the Tacoma case, the only way the standoff will really end is when the two sides sit back down and negotiate.