Tuesday, March 28, 2017

May 1st Strike?

In case you were not aware, there is a debate/discussion - among teachers and parents - about a May 1st strike/walkout.  May 1st is International Workers' Day and one that is hugely celebrated throughout the world (although not so much in the U.S.)

The vote is to take place over this week and needs a three-fourths vote of SEA membership.

There is confusion, though, over the purpose of the strike.  Some say it is in support of fully funding schools, others say it is about immigrants' rights and still others say it is a focus on social justice.

I saw on my Twitter feed today that Councilmembers Sawant and O'Brien say they are in support of the one-day strike. Here's their op-ed from the South Seattle Emerald.

As you can read below, there are differing opinions.  From comments here, I don't see much support from parents.  Here's what two different teachers have to say:

Jesse Hagopian - Garfield
I love my union. And I love public education. And that is why I am willing to make the necessary sacrifices and vote YES to strike on May Day--International Workers' Day. We have tried emailing, calling and asking nicely for the legislature to follow the law and fund education. That hasn't worked. 

The one day strike we did two years ago was highly effective in that it built mass solidarity between teachers and parents and laid the groundwork for our successful strike last year that, among other things, won race and equity teams in some 30 schools. Without that one day strike we wouldn't have had the confidence or experience to fight for more. And this one day strike has the potential to have a much bigger impact than the last one because the King County Labor Council has passed a resolution calling on locals to protest and even strike on May Day. 

Many unions are looking to SEA to see if we strike. If we do, others could follow and it could become a mass outpouring of labor solidarity that truly has the power to shake up the 1% an the politicians and make them heed our demands for education and union rights.

 In addition to all of that, the May first coalition has called on workers to strike for immigrant rights on May Day and there will be a massive outpouring of humanity at a rally that day to stand against trumps policies. All the anti immigrant rhetoric and deportations are demoralizing our students, splitting them apart from their families, and leading to hate crimes. We as educators should join the struggle for immigrant rights and see that as a vital component to a better education system. I'm not content to teach students about the mass strikes, and boycotts of the past that won social programs--I know we actually need to bring back that history and make it real for our students by demonstrating what it looks like in practice. 

For all these reasons and more, now is the time to show the power of collective activism. Vote to strike. If you are a parent, support the teachers who do. Together we can build a mass mobilization that is more powerful than the money that rich have to buy politicians who continue to refuse to do their constitutional duty.

Lyon Terry (former Washington State Teacher of the Year)
I love my union. It protects teachers and kids and advocates for the rights of teachers and kids. I thought we did the right thing to strike in 2015. 

But, I will vote NO for a one day walkout on May 1st. 

My reasons:

1. The last one day walkout in 2015 was fun and seemed powerful, but it made little difference.
2. We are not clear on a targeted message.
3. It is disruptive to student learning and family schedules.
4. Our efforts would be much better utilized if every one of us were to take that time to:

a. Learn something positive about the Governor's Education Proposal. http://www.governor.wa.gov/…/f…/documents/Education12_15.pdf
b. Learn something positive about the House budget that comes out on Monday.
c. Learn something about the Senate Republican Budget (there is lots to dislike). http://src.wastateleg.org/…/Education-Equality-Act-Summary.…
d. Communicate your likes and dislikes to your legislator and/or the people on the education or ways and means committees. 

Call the legislature: 800.562.6000.
email: http://app.leg.wa.gov/memberemail/
All info can be found here as well: http://leg.wa.gov/LIC/Pages/hotline.aspx

Our collective efforts definitely matter. But, this proposed walkout is not the correct strategy.


Lynn said...

I don't see the point, especially while the legislature is negotiating the budget. Gestures like this lose their impact when they become commonplace particularly when there is no clear message.

Anonymous said...

What's missing from Hagopian's opening statement, but included in Terry's?


A strike would negatively impact students and families. It would be more than a mere "inconvenience." Please keep your personal politics out of the classroom.

Vote NO

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Do not strike - I won't support a frivolous strike like this - advocating for this strike makes me think that maybe teachers, along with the central administration do not care about our students' education. I've always previously held the teachers in highest esteem.


Anonymous said...

Wouldn't this then push out the school end-date another day? Seems late notice for families who've already made plans for that week.

Protest! Protest! said...

Hagopian and SEE are out of their minds.

Hagopian and SEE's answer to everything is to protest and organize walk-outs. Garfield high school students have already walked out to protest Trump:


If it were up to SEE, Seattle's students would be walking out of school every other day. These guys are extremely lazy. If they wanted to organize, they would organize a student led walk-out and they would work to get Republicans out of Olympia. They would really organize. They would go into the districts of Tea Party Republicans and support other candidates.

These guys act like they are leading the effort to protect immigrants- they are not.

The people that will get hurt the most are working families and poor families that need child care, and underperforming students.

I hope SEE's protest gets shot down.

As well, SEE has no clear message.

Working Parent said...

School funding is a statewide issue that has been in serious crisis mode for years. If all the school districts in the state were having a strike to protest the failure of our state to live up to its paramount duty under the state constitution and amply fund public education for all students, as a working parent with no childcare, I would be inconvenienced, but I would support that. The kids of the state should strike. We should have a kids' carnival day where all kids refuse to go to school and engage in play instead. A play-out to draw attention to the needs of children and the fact that their needs are so often left out of discussions about what should be done for them. (School politics is really all about money, and really not all about kids). The kids of this state should be a much higher priority to politicians than they are. But the proposed strike isn't statewide, is it? And it's not to draw attention to the rights and needs of children, is it?

It would also make sense for teachers to strike for more pay on May 1 if they want to. Teachers are workers and May 1 would be a very apt time for that. But they had a strike at the beginning of the school year two years ago when they negotiated the current contract that they're about 1/2 way through. Right? Why are they striking for more pay for one day in the middle of a three year contract?

If the strike is for immigrant rights, why is it a teacher strike? Immigrants make up an important part of all aspects of our society. And immigration-related legal issues are by no means limited to students in schools. Immigrant rights should encompass far more: health care, banking, jobs, legal protections, a path to citizenship, tenant rights, etc. I don't really see why public school teachers in one school district have standing to ditch work to protest for something that is, albeit very important, but actually not related to their work. If teachers want to strike for immigrant rights, they should do this in their free time, not when they're supposed to be at work.

And social justice could for sure use some attention in SPS. But it should include outcome analysis, gender equality, diversity in the teaching staff, special ed inclusion, an advanced learning program that allows public school kids to compete to their full abilities, district-wide assistance for students who have suffered trauma, help for schools to better address social inequalities that live large in the hallways and classrooms and school lives of children and young people, etc. And this one-day strike is nowhere close to even expressing what an inclusive social justice movement would look like for the 72% of children in this city who don't go to private school. This movement is not ready to strike yet. It's still incubating. Oh, beloved School Board, when will it be born?

Watching said...

My thinking is in alignment with Lyon Terry and Voting NO. I will not be supporting a strike.

Students have the most to loose.

Anonymous said...

Several AP exams are scheduled for May 1. Those dates are set by the College Board. If teachers strike that day, what happens to students who were planning to take those?

Students First

Anonymous said...

Good question. I was under the impression IB exams (also scheduled for May 1) do not allow makeups and nothing short of a hospitalization would allow for accommodations.

Vote NO

Watching said...

Chemistry, Environmental Science and Psychology AP exams are scheduled for May 1st.


Anonymous said...

Take your social justice and go back home. Funny how we never had these types of issues until all the interlopers move here. Save it for the battlefield.


Anonymous said...

You sound like Sawant! Immigrant already have rights, those who cross the boarder illegally don't and never will have the same rights. Perhaps you should move to Mexico and help people cross the boarder legally.

Problem solved

Melissa Westbrook said...

I was told teachers are well-aware of the AP/IB testing issues and there will be teachers available to cover that.

Problem solved, undocumented persons may not have the same rights as U.S. citizens but they do have rights. You need to go read the law.

Anonymous said...

The May 1st action was presented to our ESA group as a Walk Out to protest school funding issues. I voted against it because it is disruptive to families and there are other ways to get our point about funding across. Also, it is too easy for SSD staff to vote to walk out because there is no financial risk given the school year is simply extended. Don't get me wrong, I think there are great reasons for groups to walk out/strike. I just think these actions would be taken more seriously and participants would be more credible if we "paid" through loss of money for days school gets cancelled.

SPED staffer

Anonymous said...

While there may not be any financial risk to SPS staff to walk out, there is negative financial impact and stress for families.

Kudos to staff who voted against the walk out.


Anonymous said...

As a parent and an SEA member I have thought a lot about the inconvenience/hardship on parents factor. I agree that it is a one day hardship on parents, but to me the biggest inconvenience is that my daughter is not receiving the education she deserves. When I was a kid in public schools, we had manageable class sizes, music, PE, art, a fully staffed library, a nurse, and a counselor. Not getting the same access to resources generations of students have had is a true, long-term hardship. In the end I voted against the walk out, but don't fool yourself into thinking kids and families are somehow being spared if there's no strike.

A Gal

Jet City mom said...

A Gall, not sure what you are talking about with " generations" of students.
Schools have way more respurces and goodies than when I was in school in the suburbs.
We did not have art, we did not have a gym, we barely had band music, it was in a supply closet.
Class sizes were managable I guess at 32, but we did not have a staffed library most days, same with nursing staff, and no counselor.
We got by.

Because of the May Day protest, any teacher strike will be assumed to be part of that rally.
It turned nasty last year, if I remember right.

Anonymous said...

Do parents need to figure out how to help cover in the classroom in the event there isn't a strike but s bunch of teachers call in sick to march on May 1?

Planning Ahead

Voted NO said...

On May 19th, 2015, Seattle's teachers held a one day strike.

"Seattle’s teachers voted Monday to hold a one-day strike, joining colleagues in about two dozen other school districts that have staged or are planning similar walkouts to pressure state lawmakers to budget more money for lower class sizes and higher teachers’ wages."

In April:

"On April 25 — a Saturday — more than 4,000 teachers and their supporters traveled to Olympia to rally on the steps of the state Capitol’s legislative building. "


Rallys, walk-outs and strikes have not funded education. Why strike?

Voted NO said...

Melissa's comments to last year's walk-out:

"While I understand the teachers' frustrations with the Legislature, I'm not sure I agree with the walkout.  If it was done in coordination with other unions on one day at the Legislature, it might have some punch.  But this way, I think it loses any punch it might have had. And I don't think legislators will even be paying attention."


Another strike or walk out will not impact the legislature.

Anonymous said...

And yet as Voted NO inadvertently showed, those one-day strikes also did not cause doom and disaster for students. Everything went fine. I hope SEA votes yes.


POWERS said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

@ Greenwoody, what are the outcome measures on which you base your assessment that "everything went fine"? Were there any young students left home alone unsupervised for the day? Any parents who faced disciplinary action at work because they were forced to stay home? Any students or siblings who went without food or medicine due to a parent's lost wages?

It's all well and good to assume everyone managed just fine, but it is an assumption. It may not be true for everyone.


Outsider said...

Send a message to Donald Trump by making 50,000 Clinton voters in Seattle pay extra for child care on May 1! It makes perfect sense. Well, as much sense as anything else you hear from PC socialists. Then block the highways so a million Clinton voters in Seattle are stuck in traffic. Mean old Trump will be reduced to tears, for sure.

Personally, I don't care if they strike or not. My student would learn more at home than at school anyway, and someone could be home to watch him. But we would definitely stage a student counter-strike on the day added to the end of the school year.

Anonymous said...

Well put kitty (and Outsider). I think Greenwoody must have misread Voted NO's post - the strike did nothing in the legislature. No doom and disaster for them. Its impact on students and families is unknown. I resent loss of the already limited classroom time at this juncture. This will significantly and adversely impact my future support for SPS teachers and their plight. During the previous strike we drove around with a flag on our car in support of teachers. This time, should a walk-out come to pass, - our flag will say something different to be sure....


Anonymous said...

Spd owned last years uh protest. Anyone caught inciting violence will be delt with by any amount of force necessary. Parents should be aware of this.


Anonymous said...

So we'll be arrested for signs saying "more time in the classroom"? Only in Trump's America.


Anonymous said...

I'm tired of Seattle teachers using my kid as a prop in their lefty protests.

Fed up

Voted NO said...

Good point. Our children loose enough time to professional development. I don't want my children to loose more classroom time.

Families will have to pay for child care. It is time for teachers to strike on their own dime. What is the financial cost of striking to a teacher- nothing.

Michael Rice said...

This is a terrible idea. I have voted no and I have encouraged all the other teachers who I know to vote no. This would serve no purpose other than to turn the community, who has unfailing supported us, against us. I will be stunned if the 75% yes vote is reached. In addition 100% of the membership has to vote. I have a hard time believing that will happen. This whole idea comes off to me as just another attempt of members of the Social Equality Educators trying to get their names in the paper and their pictures on TV. I have supported goals of SEE in the past, but this time, I cannot support this.

Anonymous said...

When will they announce the vote tally? I am guessing 35% vote yes, but want to know how this plays out. Tensions may be high in the teacher lounges!!!

Fund education

Anonymous said...

@ Michael

My understanding is that the vote phrasing is the strike passes if approved by "75% of members who vote" not of membership. So if 10 people vote and 8 vote yes then it's a strike. The wording was, to me, anti-democratic to begin with. Normally we require 50%+1 of membership to approve a strike. However, that item among other things was never codified into policy by leadership so we now have this vote which may or may not be going on in every building in the district.

I voted no as well and am disillusioned that fellow members would create such an obviously anti-democratic motion.

Now if I'm wrong and it's been determined that the vote requires 75% of membership then that is wonderful.

I think a purposeless, disorganized, and knee-jerk strike will only hurt our community. Especially when you look at what might need to happen if McCleary isn't funded in the 2018/19 school year.

Good times.

-Theo Moriarty

Anonymous said...

Watching SEE use May Day as an excuse for staying relevant, while not considering that the most vulnerable students and families would have to scramble and suffer the most, is irony turned upside down in the most insufferable way.

Grow up!


Anonymous said...

I applaud the teachers speaking against the strike. Thank you. Let's hope reason prevails and there is a resounding NO on the strike.

It's very disturbing to hear the rules around the vote are murky and undefined. Moves like this make me think SEE is more concerned about pushing their personal agendas rather than truly supporting the education of students.

Vote NO

Anonymous said...

This has shades of what happened on the Black Lives Matter day earlier this fall. SEE said the move to wear shirts was to support the school whose event was scuttled. But then they muddied the waters of the message by having a linked rally where one of the agenda items was to detrack SPS, demonize HCC, and dismantle advanced learning. Many families felt it was a bait and switch.

Be clear and up front with public school parents and the community about WHY you are doing this and WHAT you want to achieve and HOW this event will help achieve it. Lack of transparency is a central reason why parents do not trust SPS administration. It would be very sad if the same thing happens with our teacher corps, thanks to a small but very vocal group.

To be clear, my family and I have participated in marches and rallies this year. They feel good. But they don't take the place of the hard work necessary to really enact change and put pressure to power.

Concerned parent

Working Parent said...


A student counter strike on the extra last day of school added to make up for this is a great idea :-)

Watching said...

Thanks Mr. Rice and Mr. Moriarty. Thankfully, I heard other respected teachers speak out against the strike, too. I am a strong union supporter, but I felt three strikes in 1.5 years was asking too much of parents and children.

I also felt that the organizers did not truly understand and appreciate the political climate in Olympia. I strongly feel that Seattle Public Schools would SUFFER from a strike. Many in Olympia don't like Seattle, Seattle is being expected to fund the rest of the state, Republicans and some Democrats would not support a strike. Many of our elected officials want children and school and they do not want families struggling for child care etc. I felt a strike would promote anti-union sentiment and charter schools, and would hurt Democrats trying to fund education.

Parents supported a strike and a strike was settled with the promise of McCleary being funded. As a result Seattle may need to close a large financial gap and the district is being considered irresponsible by those in Olympia. I felt Seattle leading another strike would be detrimental to Seattle's interests; Seattle would absolutely be mocked by some in Olympia.

The issue of AP exams beginning on May 1st was another concern.

Comments about media attention and disorganized attempt to strike resonates with me. Let's see what happens. I'm interested in the manner in which votes are counted.

Watching said...

Lastly, in my mind, high school students really need to be in class.

Anonymous said...

How are union votes collected and tallied at each school?

curious parent

Anonymous said...

Each union member signs out at ballot and returns it to a ballot box. Voting is only done before school, after school or during lunch. I believe there are 2 or 3 union member who count the results. -TeacherMom

checking in said...

Haha. I voted yes. Frankly because I believe Americans should support International Worker's Day. I think we are part of a larger international community. And I think we've forgotten that. No, it won't make much difference locally. Our country is moving towards third world status. That is no joke.

Voted NO said...

Checking in, Are you willing to take the day off without pay. That is no joke.

Wobbly said...

Teachers taking (and forcing everyone) to take an unscheduled vacation day is hardly in the spirit of May Day protests of the past. If they we're losing a day's pay and risking their jobs, then their claims would have merit.

What does it cost teachers to walk out for a day? Nothing.

You often get what you pay for.

(In this case, I suspect it might actually cost teachers the support and goodwill of many parents).

Watching said...

I have argued that a Seattle's teacher strike would hurt Seattle. many state leaders want students in schools. Both Dems and Republicans have argued against the court using school closure as a mechanism to fund education.

A leading Republican has filed an amendment to the budget:

"EFFECT: Legislative intent is declared to ensure continued operation of public schools and compensation of public school staff. If a judicial ruling orders public school closures or invalidates state appropriations for public schools, the Governor is authorized to direct the Treasurer to permit expenditures from the Budget Stabilization Account (BSA) for the Superintendent of Public Instruction to allocate to school districts under basic education funding formulae."

There is no doubt in my mind that a strike would precipitate a negative response from Olympia- especially if Seattle is leading the effort and Seattle is the ONLY participating group of teachers. No doubt, Seattle Equity Educators would claim resounding success. Would Seattle Equity Educators be willing to accept reponsibility for negative and punitive response from Olympia? I don't think so.

checking in said...

@Voted No...
Of course. I believe in solidarity. Without it we have nothing. As far as I know, we will be making it up. But, either way, of course. One has to look beyond ones self interest. Europe has learned many lessons in their much longer history and tragedies. They are far more involved politically and we have much to learn from them. Sometimes I think teachers - more often women in my experience - either don't know or have forgotten the history of working people and what it takes to make change. Suburbs of Seattle have been far stronger when striking - out longer and more demanding. Pretty sad in my opinion.

Voted NO said...

Very philosophic, checking in. Show your solidarity after the last bell rings.

Anonymous said...

@checking in, suggests your problem is your experience and your belief about what solidarity means. Solidarity means you don't throw women under the bus. Women know history and no, they haven't forgotten it either.

Women work. Hard. They know what working is all about. I've seen it in some of the meanest places on Earth and just as prominently in fair, educated liberal Seattle. Women know what it takes to make changes and what happens when things don't change. They know all this because they bear the burden and the consequences.

King County, land of the progressives, has the widest gender wage gap in Washington and women in this city already ranked poorly among major metropolitan areas in the US. Not a surprise.


Problem here isn't women forgetting history or don't know about working people. It's dealing with the self serving hypocrisy which cloaks so cleverly the sexism and discrimination that is deeply entrenched in this city's culture and institutions. I can see why you stated those things.

worker bee