Striking Tacoma teachers want contract solutions now, not later

Sep 15, 2011

Tacoma schools will be closed again Friday after teachers voted on Thursday to stay out on strike. Friday will be their fourth day on the picket lines, despite a court order to return to their classrooms.

The teachers say that without a resolution to the basic contractual issues in the conflict, returning to class now would only prolong the turmoil, possibly for years.

Superior Court Judge Bryan Chushcoff has scheduled a hearing for Friday to determine if teachers and the school district are complying with his order and to decide on further legal action.

Teachers protesting outside of Lincoln High School on Tacoma’s east side say they have a lot of reasons to stand their ground. They’re feeling support from families, local businesses and community members.

For example, as community members drive past picket lines honking and cheering. Outside of the Tacoma Dome, where the teachers voted to stay out on strike, roughly 100 parents and students cheered them as they left the building.

Looking long term

Peter Briggs teaches band, drumline and orchestra at the school.  He says he’s confident in the strike because of the example it sets for students.

“Defying court orders is a dangerous precedent to set. But, at the same time, taking a stand for what’s right and for what’s just, in spite of the legalities of the issues is more important for us as teachers to model that for our students,” Briggs said.

In fact, teachers say they not only think the district’s contract proposals have been unjust, but they believe the proposals would affect them negatively for years. 

“If it’s a three week strike, that sucks. That’s not good for anybody. Not for the kids, not for us, not for the community," said Aaron Nyland, an English teacher at Lincoln High School. "But, if we back down and agree to a bad contract, then for three years we’re stuck in a big giant hole."

Or even longer. 

The basic conflict

Several teachers say if they give up certain benefits and protections now, they fear they’ll never get them back.

The issue they’re worried most about is how the district wants to transfer and reassign them. That and the idea of teaching bigger classes with no pay increases has them pledging to hold the line for as long as it takes to agree on a new contract.

The school district says the strike is illegal and teachers should go back to work while negotiations continue.