Unions Predict Fewest Teacher Strikes Ever
Noting a sharply reduced level of strike activity so far this fall, officials for the two national teachers' unions predicted last week that the number of strikes by teachers this year will reach an all-time low.
Union officials suggested that a new spirit of cooperation among educators and a trend toward salary increases that outpace inflation have contributed to reduced levels of strike activity.
"We're looking at the lowest number of teacher strikes in collective-bargaining history this year," said Scott Widmeyer, a spokesman for the 600,000-member American Federation of Teachers.
nea officials also noted a marked decrease in strike activity.
"It appears this year that we'll have our lowest figure since we started tracking strike activity in 1971," said Howard Carroll, a public-information officer who monitors negotiations nationwide for the 1.6-million-member nea
According to Mr. Widmeyer, so far this school year only five aft locals have gone out on strike. Last fall at this time, he said, 15 aft locals had struck.
None of the aft teachers in Chicago, Niles, Ill., Ecorse, Mich., Peters Township, Pa., and Pawtucket, R.I., are still on strike.
(In Pawtucket, a Rhode Island Supreme Court justice this month granted the teachers a delay in paying a $65,000 fine while the Pawtucket Teachers Alliance appeals the penalty. Superior Court Justice Corinne P. Grande last month fined the teachers for disobeying her back-to-work order during the 13-day strike.)
Emphasis on Professionalism
aft officials attributed the decrease in strike actions to a new spirit of cooperation among educators and an emphasis on "professionalism" in teaching.
For example, Mr. Widmeyer noted that teachers and administrators in Pittsburgh arrived at a contract settlement this September one full year before the teacher contract even expired.
Rather than spend another year in negotiation, teachers and administrators in the school system wanted to turn their attention to the "agenda of teacher professionalism and peer-involvement issues," according to Albert Fondy, head of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers.
Mr. Carroll said that strike activity also is down considerably among nea affiliates in the few states in which most strikes traditionally occur.
At this time last year, he noted, Michigan had 13 strikes, compared with only 7 strikes so far this school year; Pennsylvania had 19 strikes last year, compared with this year's 11; New Jersey had 9 strikes in 1984-85 and has had only 3 this fall.
As of late last week, nea teachers were still on strike in Tuskin, Calif.; Brown County, Ill.; Waverly, Ill.; Nokomis, Ill.; Passaic, N.J.; Stark County, Ohio; Southwest Butler, Pa.; Saltburg, Pa.; Albert Gallatin, Pa.; Corry, Pa.; Lower Merion, Pa.; and East York, Pa.
Mr. Carroll said the decline in strike activity is due in part to "the mood of the country," but also is the result of "fairly good" contract settlements with salary increases well above the rate of inflation.