Update: Union VP says she's proud of Tacoma teachers' vote to strike

Sep 12, 2011

"It really had to come down to a strike ..." 

Tacoma schools will be closed to students tomorrow. Teachers voted to go on strike at their union meeting tonight. They expect to start picketing first at Lincoln High School at 6 a.m. Tuesday morning. 

“I’m so proud of our teachers – 87 percent of our teaching membership voted to strike. It’s that important to them to have a fair contract,” said Adrienne Dale, VP of Tacoma Education Association. “It’s very difficult for teachers to leave their classrooms because they’re in it for kids. So, it was a very powerful moment when the numbers came back.”

The strike comes after negotiations broke down between Tacoma Education Association and district negotiators over the teachers’ labor contract. They’ve been working without a new agreement since school started on Sept. 1st.

Negotiations at the third largest school district in the state have stalled over several issues, including class size, salary and how teachers are assigned. This is the district's first teacher strike since 1988, according to Tacoma school officials.

This is the second time since contract talks stalled that Tacoma teachers have voted on whether to strike.  The first time, they fell just 3-percent short of the majority needed to authorize a walk out.  This time, they allowed nearly 200 teachers to vote early if they couldn’t make it to tonight’s meeting.

"It really had to come down to a strike," Dale said. "There was absolutely no movement at the bargaining table." 

Dan Voelpel, spokesman for the Tacoma Public Schools, declined to comment on what the district plans to do if the strike extends beyond Tuesday.  What he would say is both sides need to return to the bargaining table as soon as possible.       

“We don’t know how it’s going to turn out,” he says. “All we can do is work very hard to try and get the issue ironed out at the bargaining table. That’s where this should be done. We should continue to allow the students to attend school and keep ourselves all focused on educating our kids.”

Voelpel says athletic programs will continue despite the strike. Principals will also report to work. 

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