Seattle public school educators and their supporters are outraged that the Seattle teachers’ strike was called off Tuesday by the Seattle Education Association (SEA) before a tentative agreement (TA) was reached. The teachers have been ordered back to school and have been working without a contract since Wednesday.
“We still haven’t received a full deal. Everyone feels very betrayed,” a specialist teacher wrote to the WSWS.
The strike ended in an undemocratic move by the SEA, which said a TA was reached late Monday night and called for a vote to end the strike on Tuesday. The vote flouted an earlier rank-and-file resolution to stay on strike until teachers had time to study, then vote on the full TA. As it fell from 57% to 43%, many teachers expressed concerns about the legitimacy of the vote, which was conducted online and entirely monitored by SEA, with no grassroots oversight.
“We had a major issue with who had access to the meeting,” the teacher continued. “I really don’t think all the members had a chance to vote.
Another SPS teacher expressed concerns about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has been a major concern for teachers, but is not addressed at all in any of the contract “summaries” provided by SEA. “I am deeply concerned about COVID-19 in the fall. Many educators fell ill and could not work, and many students also had cases.
“As a teacher in a diverse South Seattle community, I am deeply concerned about the many grandparents and older parents living in multigenerational immigrant homes, as well as the long-term health of my students and from their families… Our new contract doesn’t offer any protection against COVID sick leave (one of the District’s few “minimum” accommodations over the past year). The implicit message from the district is that educators are all supposed to “eventually get COVID” and that we should do this for our students because they know that many educators are willing to make this sacrifice and that we are disposable for them. ”
He also commented on the ongoing struggle of 100,000 railroad workers, outraged at attempts by unions to sabotage their struggle in collusion with railroad companies and the Biden administration. “I can only express my support for the railway workers, who are the backbone of our economy and make our society work. Labour, of workers, is what sustains life and society, not bosses and capital.
Even if our leadership doesn’t always represent us, our collective work has power and we amplify that when we support each other in the fight. I hope the railroad workers stay strong and know that many teachers in the Seattle Public School District support their struggle.
The need to unite the struggles of all sections of the working class was further underscored by the sell-out of a strike by 110 teachers in the Eatonville School District, just south of Tacoma, by the Eatonville Education Association. As in the recent teachers’ strike in neighboring Kent, unions are determined to isolate teachers’ struggles district by district so as not to challenge the Democratic Party apparatus that dominates Washington state.
The teachers also talked about the broader issues they face. They went on strike on September 7 to demand better staffing ratios, in particular for special education and multilingual students, as well as better salaries, in particular for paraeducators and support staff, who earn less than $20 per hour. Teachers say they have to drive from Tacoma, about an hour away, because they can’t afford to live in the district where they teach.
“We have to consider what it means to serve students well,” commented another teacher, a theme expressed repeatedly during the strike. “English learners and students with special needs need consistency and the district is not doing anything to retain these teachers. There is a huge turnover rate. Support staff are so important. It is the heart and soul of the school. They can’t afford to live in Seattle.
“I couldn’t tell you how many vacancies we had last year. It’s incredibly stressful. It is the students who suffer. These proposals from the district are a slap in the face to the students. How do you explain to students why teachers leave? Students are getting closer to teachers and staff changes are terrible for student mental health.
Another special education access teacher we spoke with said she understands there is a rainy day fund that SPS has accumulated during the pandemic. “Well, it’s raining!” she said: “There is definitely a broader issue of needing more money for public education, but also spending the money we already have more appropriately. Like about the people who work in the schools instead of the more senior people in the district who don’t have day-to-day interactions with the students. We should fund the people who have the most impact on students.
There has also been a lot of support for working-class teachers at large. On social media, a Seattle resident commented on Tuesday’s vote: “57 [percent] is not a strong show of support and makes me honestly concerned about the mental health of teachers. One parent wrote: “I support continuing the strike until everyone has a chance to read the entire agreement and vote on it. I don’t trust the SPS AT ALL and the best leverage you currently have is to NOT suspend the strike. »
A supporter of the Seattle teachers in their strike and fellow educator told the WSWS, “It doesn’t make sense to give up a bargaining position when you don’t know exactly what you’re getting into. A summary will not suffice. SEA must allow sufficient time for all members to read and understand the entire proposed agreement. Vote NO!”