St. Louis, 14 Other Teacher Strikes Settled; 23 Continue
Fewer teachers were on strike last week, with 23 walkouts in five states reported, compared with 38 in eight states the previous week; the largest one, in St. Louis, ended after only four days.
But in Los Angeles, union and school district officials reported substantial disagreements in contract talks and a walkout in that 550,000-student district appeared likely this week.
In St. Louis, where the strike involved about 3,200 teachers and 56,000 students, teachers voted overwhelmingly last week to return to work without a contract after the school board began advertising for replacements. Both sides have agreed to resume negotiations, according to their spokesmen. Two of the major issues have been salary levels and class sizes.
The St. Louis walkout attracted particular attention because it coincided with the launch of a massive court-approved desegregation plan involving the city and its nearly two dozen surrounding suburbs.
On the second day of the strike, when only a few children appeared at the schools, a federal judge ordered the teachers back to work, saying they were disrupting the desegregation plan. But some teachers defied the order until the school dis-trict began taking down their names and threatening to replace them.
In Los Angeles, the 18,000-member United Teachers of Los Angeles (utla) called for a one-day walkout of the district's 31,000 teachers last Friday. A vote authorizing a strike was scheduled for Monday of this week, union officials said.
The district and the school board have been without a formal contract for more than a year, but the chances of negotiating one this fall had at first seemed good because of the passage of an $800-million school-reform law that opened the way for pay increases for California teachers for the first time in several years.
However, the Los Angeles negotiations suffered a major setback on Sept. 1, when the school board proposed a mandatory teacher-transfer policy, said Len Feldman, a union spokesman. The proposal gave the board the authority to transfer experienced teachers into inner-city schools for up to five years at a time. School officials say there are now about 400 vacancies in these schools.
The proposal angered the union because it came late in the talks and because the school board "was unwilling to move on anything else until that issue was settled," Mr. Feldman said.
Teacher transfers first became an issue in 1976, when the school board, under pressure from a federal desegregation order, set up a lottery system that selected teachers for mandatory transfer to predominately minority schools. The union blocked the system after one year.
Last week, talks between the union and the school board eroded further when the board implemented a unilateral 7.8-percent pay increase for all teachers without union agreement, Mr. Feldman said. The union had been seeking a 9.4-percent increase. The union accused the board of violating state collective-bargaining laws and filed an unfair labor-practices action against the board with the state's Public Employees Relations Board. "We're still talking, but not in good faith," Mr. Feldman said.
In Boston, where teachers have voted to stay on the job without a contract, no progress in resolving differences--mainly over salary levels--was reported after a meeting last week. The next talks were scheduled for Sept. 20.
Among the five states that reported teacher strikes last week, Michigan had 12; Washington State, Illinois, and Pennsylvania reported three each; and Rhode Island reported two. A total of about 11,000 teachers were striking, and 187,000 students were affected, according to combined union figures.