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Seattle schoolteachers on strike

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Photo by Jason Redmond / AP
Photo by Jason Redmond / AP

Seattle's schoolteachers went on strike September 7, delaying the expected opening of the fall term for an unforeseen period.

The Seattle Education Association (SEA), which represents some 6,000 teachers and other professional staff, said it is "fighting to improve special education, multilingual education, mental health supports, [and] caseloads/class sizes; to provide workload relief; and to create higher wages for all, especially our classified staff."

"Classified staff" includes non-teaching employees who don't have an individual employment contract with the Seattle School District. Custodial staff are members of another union, the Operating Engineers (IUOE).

Photo by Jason Redmond / AP  

SEA members voted overwhelmingly on September 6 to strike if last-minute negotiations failed to produce results. According to the union, 95% voted in favor of the strike.

Teachers have been bargaining with the Seattle School District for months, with no result, and the last session — which lasted late in the night of September 6 — did not change the situation.

Photo by Jason Redmond / AP  

According to the Washington Education Association (WEA), the umbrella union for all local teachers' unions, picket lines will be up at Seattle schools from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. until the strike is settled.

SEA's specific demands include:

  • maintaining staff ratios for disabled and multilingual students,
  • providing more services in general education classrooms, and
  • ensuring that the district provides interpretation and translation services in meetings with parents and on official documents.
    "We're not asking for the moon," SEA President Jennifer Matter said. "We recognize we have to put forth proposals that work within the district's budget. Everything that we put in, we know the district can afford."

    The district, which has an enrollment of about 50,000 students, is offering a package of pay increases for SEA members, as well as substitutes. 

    Seattle teachers were last on strike in 2015. Since then, teachers' pay has gone up significantly, but there have been ongoing complaints of short-staffing and lack of necessary resources, especially for special needs students.

    The Kent Education Association said on September 7 that it had reached a tentative agreement with its school district after a strike lasting eight days.