Six Strikes Continue in Illinois and Pennsylvania

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Six teachers' strikes, five in Pennsylvania and one in Illinois, were still in progress last week--the result, one labor-relations expert said, of stiffer demands made by unions because of anxiety about the national recession.

The school boards and unions in the six districts, which together enroll more than 10,000 students, were still far apart in negotiations over salaries. In two of the districts, judges have ordered daily talks and news blackouts.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles district headed for mediation after nine weeks of negotiations. The teachers there are working under the terms of a contract that expired on Aug. 31.

The unusual length of the walkouts is a result of the pressures placed on both sides by the recession, according to William E. Caldwell, the state-appointed investigator in a teachers' strike that was resolved earlier this fall in Mount Carmel, Pa.

As recently as 1975, the average duration of a teachers' strike in Pennsylvania was 7.7 days; in 1979-80, the last year for which statistics are available, the figure was 17.8 days, according to the state department of education.

'Severe Economic Pressure'

Mr. Caldwell, a "fact-finder" in school contract talks for 12 years, said solutions to contract differences are harder than ever to reach because "the severe economic pressure on both the teachers and the districts makes it harder for both sides to compromise on an issue."

"Employees 45 years old and younger have experienced increases [in salaries and benefits] as long as they can remember, and they don't understand when someone says there might not be an increase," said Mr. Caldwell, who is also associate professor of education at Pennsylvania State University. "And the boards have to protect the enterprise without tax increases."

The only continuing public-school strike outside Pennsylvania, according to spokesmen for the two leading national teachers' organizations, started on Nov. 2 in the 2,000-student La Grange Elementary School District in suburban Chicago.

There, 122 teachers affiliated with the Illinois Education Association walked off the job over salaries and layoff policies.

La Grange teachers are asking for 10-percent pay raises, twice what the district has offered. The teachers are also resisting the administration's efforts to consider performance and professional activities, as well as seniority, in teacher layoffs.

The United Area School District in Armagh, Pa., has experienced the longest continuing strike this fall--49 days as of last Wednesday.

The United Education Association, which represents 100 teachers in the 2,100-student district, and the school board are from $500 to $1,000 apart on salary demands and have also clashed over a board proposal to alter health plans.

Indiana County Judge Earl R. Handler last Tuesday ordered daily negotiations until a settlement is reached. He also ordered both sides not to make public statements about the talks.

In the California, Pa., school district, the sides are farther apart. The California Area Education Association, which represents the district's 76 teachers, rejected the board's proposal of wage increases of $1,600, $1,700, and $1,000 over the next three years. Those increases would have been accompanied by reductions in health benefits.

The strike, which has affected 1,462 students, entered its 33rd day last Wednesday.

Carbondale teachers have turned down board offers of $1,000, $1,200, and $1,300 raises over the next three years. They have asked for wage hikes of $1,900, $2,000, and $2,100, as well as improvements in dental care and larger fees for supervising extracurricular activities.

The 91-member Carbondale Education Association has also asked for a further definition of state layoff regulations and smaller class sizes. The Carbondale walkout, which entered its 18th day last Wednesday, affects 1,894 students.

Wage Increases Rejected

Wilkensburg's 139-member union last Tuesday rejected a board offer of wage increases of $1,800, $2,050, and $2,150 over the next three years. About 2,500 students are affected by the walkout.

Teachers also are resisting board efforts to increase the maximum class size.

No information was available late last week on progress in the strike in Tulpahocken, where a judge has imposed a gag order.

The United Teachers of Los Angeles--the largest teachers' union outside New York--on Nov. 4 declared an impasse in its negotiations with the school board.

The state's Public Employee Relations Board was expected to appoint a mediator last week.

The 30,000-member union, which is affiliated with both the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, has requested an 11.2-percent salary increase, control over the selection of department chairmen, and the continuation of sabbaticals and current fringe benefits.

The Los Angeles Unified School District has said it can add to present contracts only a cash bonus of 1 percent of present salaries.

Vol. 02, Issue 11

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