After working four years without a contract, 800 teachers and paraprofessionals of the Scranton (Pa.) Federation of Teachers are prepared to strike Wednesday for better teaching and learning conditions.
“We’ve reached the end of the line and our patience with the Scranton School District,” said Scranton FT President Rosemary Boland. “Strikes are always the last resort. We held off for many months, hoping, in vain, we could agree on conditions that are good for kids and provide decency, fairness, respect and trust for our educators.”
NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said the statewide union stands in solidarity with Scranton teachers and paraprofessionals, who say slash-and-burn budget cuts have gone too deep. “It’s time to treat students, families and educators fairly,” Pallotta said.
“There’s a crisis in Scranton’s public schools,” said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. “Teachers are leaving, positions and services are being cut and students are being denied resources — all while the district drags its feet on a fair contract. The school board and the state have starved Scranton’s schools and ignored their problems for too long.”
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Educators are demanding a fair contract and the restoration of numerous program cuts, including prekindergarten, libraries, music and learning help for special education students. The Scranton district has closed an elementary school and kept teacher and paraprofessional pay frozen for more than four years, while giving central office administrators lavish raises of up to 25 percent. The district is seeking significant health insurance concessions and demanding that teachers give up their prep periods due to staff shortages.
In retaliation against educators for speaking out, the district said it would cancel health care coverage effective 12:01 a.m. Wednesday if educators go out on strike. SFT leaders called the move “heartless,” especially in the middle of a pandemic.
Scranton union leaders noted the district is receiving an estimated $60 million in federal recovery aid but it is not being used to stabilize the district or provide students with the schools they deserve. After years of mismanagement, Scranton public schools are operating under a state takeover plan.
The Scranton labor dispute is the latest of numerous walkouts around the country, prompting labor leaders and many headline writers to dub last month “Striketober.”
Here’s an AFL-CIO map of strikes and authorized strikes.
Recent actions include:
- 1,400 BCTGM Kellogg’s factory workers stopped work in four states over the proposed introduction of a two-tier pay system.
- 10,000 UAW manufacturing workers at John Deere walked off the job in five states.
- 20,000 nurses and workers in California and Oregon with Kaiser Permanente voted to go on strike.
- About 60,000 IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees) film and TV crew members only narrowly averted a strike.
“Over the past few years — and particularly in the last two years with the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. workers feel like they have been taken for granted, working long hours in increasingly worse conditions,” said Kate Bronfenbrenner, a labor scholar at Cornell University.
“The strikes are sending a signal, no doubt about it, that employers ignore workers at their peril,” AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler told The Washington Post. “I think this wave of strikes is actually going to inspire more workers to stand up and speak out and put that line in the sand and say, ‘We deserve better.’”