Violence Marks Pa.'s Longest Teachers' Strike
The nation's only remaining teachers' strike--the longest in Pennsylvania history--entered its 69th day last Thursday with the president of the union in jail for refusing a court's back-to-work order and the school-board president in the hospital after having been struck with a bottle.
Both sides returned to the negotiating table in Pittsburgh to consider, among other proposals, an initiative drafted by residents affected by the closing of the California Area School District.
The initiative, approved by 700 citizens at a town meeting, would offer teachers a one-year contract including a raise of $1,600. Under the proposal, California's 1,400 students would return to school immediately and taxes would not be raised.
Gerald Cowen, president of the California Area Teachers Association, began serving an open-ended prison sentence last Tuesday night after defying Washington County Judge Samuel Rodgers' order to get the teachers back to work.
A cheering crowd of about 2,000 lined Mr. Cowen's path to jail. About 40 striking teachers and supporters maintained an overnight vigil outside the courthouse in freezing temperatures to show support for the union leader, who is freed during the day but must return to jail each night.
The school-board president, Roger Emelson, was undergoing tests for a possible punctured lung after being confronted by a crowd of about 200 Monday at the end of another unproductive bargaining session. He earlier underwent nose surgery as the result of being hit with a thermos bottle in a strike-related fracas.
The strike of the union's 76 members began on Sept. 27. Negotiations, which started almost one year ago, have failed to result in agreement on any issue.--ce