Classes canceled in Tacoma for second day as strike continues

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by KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on September 13, 2011 at 6:31 AM

Updated Tuesday, Sep 13 at 6:28 PM

TACOMA, Wash. - No school Wednesday for Tacoma students as a teachers strike continues. A judge will hear arguments on the district's request for an injunction declaring the strike illegal.

Classes were canceled for 28,000 students in the Tacoma School District after 87 percent of the Tacoma Education Association teachers voted to go on strike. Around 2,400 teachers and staff members are on strike. 

Both the Washington attorney general and state judges have ruled that state public employees do not have the right to strike.

But that hasn't stopped about 200 teachers from picketing in front of Lincoln High and other schools across Tacoma.  They arrived around 6 a.m. Tuesday, armed with signs that say in bold letters "On Strike." Teachers from elementary, middle and high schools walked in solidarity.

"It's terrible. It's poisonous. It's not good for schools, it's not good for kids, it's not good for education," said Brent Gaspaire, Lincoln High School teacher. "We're out here to take a stand against it."

"Whatever it takes to get fair bargaining for our teachers," said Zane McNack, elementary teacher.

Members of the TEA met at Mount Tahoma High School Monday evening to vote on whether to continue working under an expired contract or to strike. Eighty-seven percent of the TEA voted to go on strike.

The strike centers around three issues, including pay, class size and the method in which teachers can be reassigned or transferred within the district.

Teachers errupted into cheers when the vote tally was announced. They immediately lined up to receive signs for a picket line expected to form tomorrow at 8:00 a.m.

"I don't want to go on strike, pretty upset about that," said middle school teacher Kim Williams. "I'm upset with the district right now. We have a lot of misuse of monies. When our administrators get a five percent raise, and we're told to take a cut, which I understand, but we're not asking for a raise."

With all 28,000 students in the district not be going to school Tuesday, that leaves some parents scrambling to find child care options.

“It’s stressful,” said Christina Jamerson who works full-time in Kent and had to find child care for her six-year-old daughter.

Jamerson is relieved her neighborhood Boys and Girls Club is expanding its after school hours to care for children all-day due to the strike.

“It was a huge relief,” said Jamerson.

“We’re going back to summer hours,” said Mark Stares, CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound.

The Pierce County YMCA is also offering all-day child care.

Wednesday morning the school district will argue it is illegal for teachers to strike. The district claims the strike is causing “irreparable harm.”

“Strikes by public employees, including school employees and teachers, have long been held to be illegal in the State of Washington,” said Tacoma Public Schools attorney Shannon McMinimee.

Union attorneys will argue state law does not prohibit teachers from striking.

“It is my understanding state law is silent on teacher strikes and we have the right to do this,” said union negotiator and kindergarten teacher Angel Morton.

It is not clear how long it will take the Pierce County judge to rule on the legaility of the strike.

A district spokesperson said no contract negotiations will be scheduled until the judge makes his decision

KING 5's Teresa Yuan contributed to this report.

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