Your Rights During a Teacher Strike

 

UPDATE: Following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME on June 27, 2018, agency fee payers in government no longer have pay fair share fees to their workplace union. Your workplace should have already halted such payments.  If not, or if you’re unsure if that update has been made, please contact your payroll/human resources department to ensure fee payments to unions stop immediately.  If you need assistance on this, get in touch with Free to Teach’s parent organization, Americans for Fair Treatment at 833-969-FAIR (3247), or at Keith@FreetoTeach.org.

 Teacher strikes are common in Pennsylvania.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 131 teacher strikes took place between 1999 and March 2018, averaging 7 strikes per year.* A Mother Jones magazine national tally of teacher strikes reports 839 teacher strikes between 1968 and 2012. Some 740 of those—or 88 percent—occurred in Pennsylvania.

2018 could see many more strikes. Currently, 38 school districts have expired contracts, which lapsed between 2013 and 2017. Altogether, the districts represent over 8,000 classroom teachers (this does not count the state’s second-largest school district, Pittsburgh, which at the end of February 2018 staved off a looming teacher strike). Another 126 school districts will see teachers’ collective bargaining agreements expire in 2018, starting on June 30.**

If you’re a union member who disagrees with a strike, you could face repercussions.

If you refuse to picket, your local union of the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) or the Pennsylvania Federation of Teachers (PFT) can penalize you for not participating in a strike. Through anecdotal evidence on PSEA, Free to Teach has determined such penalties could range from no action, to loss of access to union strike funds, to fines levied on non-strikers. In any case, the ill-will and animosity that builds before a strike could mean damaged professional relationships or an outright hostile work environment for union members who refuse to strike.

If you’re a teacher and union member who disagrees with an upcoming strike, your best option is to resign immediately from your union, which in most districts will make you a fair share fee payer.

Teachers who are fair share fee payers do not need to worry in case of a strike.

As a non-member, you are not required to participate in any union actions. The union cannot refuse to represent you, succeed in having your pay or benefits cut, or otherwise harm your job. By state law, you pay the union to cover the cost of contract negotiations and grievance resolution only—no more. Follow your administration’s instructions on what to do in case of a strike


*Response to Right-to-Know request from Pennsylvania Department of Education, March 22, 2018.

**Total calculated from Right-to-Know responses to requests for school district collective bargaining agreements.

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