Stop Legislation Banning Teacher Strikes

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The AFT Pennsylvania is fighting a Senate proposal that would ban teacher strikes across Pennsylvania.


The bill is being offered as an amendment to unrelated education bills. It was proposed by state Sen. Robert Mellow, D-Lakawana and would make it illegal for teachers or education employees to strike and would levy high personal fines on teachers and unions that conduct walkouts to achieve new labor agreements.


“This is terrible legislation,” AFTPA president Ted Kirsch said. “While we believe strikes should be the last resort in collective bargaining, there are times when striking is the only leverage our members have to move employers to an agreement.”


Please call your state Senators today. Tell them to vote NO on any Mellow amendment that would make teacher strikes illegal. The Capitol switchboard can be reached at 717-787-2121. Ask to be connected to your state senator.


“We need every AFT Pennsylvania member to contact his or her state Senator and tell them to vote against any Mellow amendment making teacher strikes illegal,” Kirsch said.


“We have to act quickly. This amendment can be attached to any education bill and brought up for a vote any day.”


Kirsch said it is particularly important that the amendment’s co-sponsors are contacted and asked not only not to vote for it but to remove their names as co-sponsors.


Co-sponsors are Lisa Boscola, D-Lehigh, Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, Jane Earll, R-Erie, Jim Ferlo, D-Allegheny, Richard Kasunic, D-Fayette, Raphael Musto, D-Luzerne, John Rafferty Jr., R-Montgomery, J. Barry Stout, D-Allegheny and Mellow.


The bill would force teachers to forfeit two days’ pay for each day of a strike, fine individuals $5,000 for inciding a strike and require nonbinding arbitration to resolve contract disputes within a particular time frame.


“We cannot allow momentum to build to make strikes by teachers and education employees illegal,” Kirsch added. “It would take collective bargaining away from thousands of workers and put the decisions in the hands of non-educators.”


In another move to ban strikes, Rep. Bob Bastian announced Oct. 24 tha he plans to introduce legislation (as House Bill 1901) that would ban teacher strikes through a constitutional amendment.


Bastian said his legislation is part of a larger effort, the Strike-Free Education Pact, which includes House Bill 1369 previously introduced by Rep. Todd Rock.  Rock’s legislation would require mediation, fact-finding, arbitration, a mandatory vote, and mandatory negotiating with public transparency during the collective bargaining process.


Contact your senators and representatives and tell them to vote NO on any legislation that would prohibit strikes by education employees.


Public employees, including teachers, were granted the right to strike under Act 195 in 1970. 

Since its passage, the right to strike has been used by teachers’ unions less and less frequently and only as a last resort in protracted collective bargaining disputes, he said.


The state’s largest teachers’ union, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, has not lost a day of school to a strike since 1983, and the state’s second largest local, Pittsburgh, has not had a work stoppage since 1975.


In the first decade after Act 195’s passage, there was an average of 36.5 teacher strikes a year. That number has dropped to six teacher strikes in 2004-05 out of 501 school districts.


Although used sparingly in Pennsylvania, strikes – or the threat of work stoppages – are sometimes the only leverage school employees can use to win fair and equitable contracts that improve education and attract and retain the best teachers and staff.