CTU House of Delegates passed mild resolution in support... Teachers across Washington doing one-day strikes... Dozens of Washington school districts stage one-day strikes for lower class size, better pay...

In the past month, teachers in almost fifty school districts in Washington have staged one day walkouts, with accompanying demonstrations in their cities and towns, as well a mass demonstration in their capital, Olympia. As our own contract fight here in Chicago heats up, CTU members may want to take note. (Our Washington sisters and brothers, members of the Washington Education Association, also wear red.) Their fight is familiar to us here: the main issues are class size and compensation.

Teachers strikes are illegal in the State of Washington, but the Washington Education Association (WEA) has been orchestrating one-day strikes since the government failed to fund lower class size and other public school improvements it passed. Voters supported a ballot initiative, but the government is simply ignoring it. Most corporate media are tsk tsking about the "illegal" strikes while ignoring the illegal refusal of the governor and legislators to fully fund the state's public schools.Washington voters passed a ballot initiative (I-1351) last fall, mandating reductions in class sizes, and for the legislature to fund those reductions. To date, the Washington legislature has not come up with the necessary money. Even before I-1351, the Washington Supreme Court found the legislature to be in contempt for failing to fund public education, as required by the state constitution. But court decisions are one thing getting the money is quite another.

The second main issue is compensation. With some exceptions, Washington teachers have not had cost-of-living raises for the past six years. Yet the Washington legislature are scheduled to get an 11% raise over the next two years, while offering teachers a piddling 3% for the same interval. In Washington, 81% of a typical teachers salary is paid by the state, with 19% coming from the local district.

The current strike movement started late April in the Northwest of the state, by the initiative of the 4th Corner Region of the WEA, which represents towns like Bellingham, Mount Vernon and Sedro-Woolley. It has proven extremely popular, with votes for many of the one day walkouts reported as near unanimous. A rally of teachers in the capital of Olympia drew 4,000 teacher on April 25th. The one days strikes have spread both to the bigger cities down the Puget Sound, like Seattle and Everett, and inland, to more conservative parts of the state, including Spokane. As of May 20th, 47 districts have staged walkouts, with a total of 61 slated to do so by June 2nd.

Why one day strikes? In Washington, teachers do not have a legally protected right to strike. Though strikes are not explicitly illegal, school boards often seek injunctions from the courts to end strike action. Washington courts issued an injunction against the militant Tacoma teachers strike in fall of 2011 an injunction the union defied on their way to victory. But other Washington teachers have seen strikes ended by the courts. The rationale for one-day strikes is that their short duration prevents the authorities from using the courts; so far they have proven effective in drawing attention to the funding issue.

But the limited duration of these strikes also limits their power.

Democrats control the lower house in Washington and the governors office, with Republicans controlling the Senate. None appears to want to come up with the funding and so far the court injunction hasnt gotten them moving either. One day strikes alone are unlikely to force their hand. But they could be preparation for stronger action. The WEA produced a resolution indicating that they might launch a statewide strike, if the legislature does not act before the beginning of the school year. A resolute statewide strike by a large portion of WEAs 86,000 members would have at least the possibility of forcing the ruling classs representatives in Olympia to fund education. There is hope that Washington teachers will find a way. (We havent seen a state-wide strike in the US in quite some time, though the province-wide strike in British Columbia in 2007 was an early inspiration for CORE.)

According to the website of the Washington Education Association (WEA), the districts doing the strikes as of May 24, when this article appears at, are:

Lakewood (April 22)

Stanwood-Camano (April 22)

Arlington (April 22)

Bellingham (April 24)

Blaine (April 24)

Conway (April 24)

Ferndale (April 24)

Mount Vernon (April 24)

Anacortes (April 24)

Sedro Woolley (April 29)

Bainbridge Island (April 30)

Burlington-Edison (April 30)

Marysville (May 1)

Oak Harbor (May 1)

Lake Washington (May 6)

Northshore (May 6)

South Whidbey (May 6)

Central Kitsap (May 7)

Granite Falls (May 8)

Lake Stevens (May 8)

Snohomish (May 8)

Franklin Pierce (May 8)

Shoreline (May 11)

Camas (May 13)

Evergreen/Clark County (May 13)

Washougal (May 13)

Hockinson (May 13)

Sultan (May 15)

Chimacum (May 15)

Snoqualmie Valley (May 15)

Monroe (May 15)

North Kitsap (May 18)

Sequim (May 18)

Wenatchee (May 18)

Eastmont (May 18)

Port Angeles (May 18)

Seattle (May 19)

Peninsula (May 19)

Issaquah (May 19)

Mercer Island (May 19)

University Place (May 20)

South Kitsap (May 20)

Steilacoom (May 20)

Mukilteo (May 20)

Bellevue (May 20)

Othello (May 20)

North Thurston (May 20)

Kennewick (May 21)

Pasco (May 21)

Richland (May 21)

Kiona Benton (May 21)

Moses Lake (May 21)

Highline (May 21)

Columbia (Burbank) May 21)

Tumwater (May 22)

Everett (May 22)

Olympia (May 26)

Longview (May 27)

Yelm (May 27)

Rainier (May 27)

Spokane (May 27)

East Valley (May 27)

Puyallup (June 3)

CTUs House of Delegates passed a (very brief) resolution in solidarity with our Washington sisters and brothers at the May meeting:

The Chicago Teachers Union stands in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in struggle in Washington (this resolution was introduced by the author)

The original resolution can be found here:

It reads in full:

Resolution in Support of Striking Members of Washington Educators Association

[Editors Note: This is a draft resolution which was presented to the Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates at the May 2015 meeting for discussion. The shorter resolution was approved.

Whereas: Washington State is carrying out a policy of starving its public schools a policy

Chicago teachers experience here in Illinois pushed by both Democrats and Republicans. And

Whereas: Washington teachers have fought to improve their working conditions, including a winning statewide ballot initiative to lower class sizes in the state and to retain reasonable salaries and

Whereas: the Washington political apparatus, dominated, as here in Illinois, by Democrats, has refused to adequately fund public education, crying poor, including defying the aforementioned ballot initiative and

Whereas: as here in Illinois, Washingtons crying poor is a bald-faced lie evidenced by the fact that the same politicians handed 8.7 billion dollars in handouts to Boeing Corporation, one of the wealthiest in the world two years ago, and

Whereas: Washington legislatures are recommending to grant themselves substantial raises at considerable public expense, again while crying broke and Whereas: Washington teachers have decided to wage a struggle, with an ongoing series of one day strikes by 24 school districts in the state planned so far and a demonstration in the capital, Olympia, in order to bring attention to the issue, these actions being decided by near-unanimous votes of local memberships and

Whereas: to date, our sisters and brothers in 24 districts to have struck, despite absence of a Legally protected right to do so, Whereas: Chicago teachers, recognizing our own need to fight, must extend solidarity and support to all other teachers and working people who fight against austerity attacks carried out by the government or their employers,

Therefore be it Resolved that:

The Chicago Teachers Union stands in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in struggle in Washington and

The Chicago Teachers Union will publicize its solidarity with the aims and struggle of Washington, by all means available to it and

The Chicago Teachers Union will offer any moral, political or technical support that our sisters and brothers in Washington may request.

This is WEA site for update on their strike movement:

Seattle walkout yesterday


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