Governor Shumlin: Now's Not the Time
Yesterday (October 16), Gov. Peter Shumlin expressed his desire to make teacher strikes illegal in Vermont. The Democrat (and head of the Democratic Governors Association) sure picked a terrible time to talk about the issue while more than 200 of our brothers and sisters walk the picket line in South Burlington's first-ever teachers strike.
Here is our response to the governor's ill-timed pronouncements on the issue:
While our members are exercising their legal right to strike and walking a picket line, our focus and thoughts are on supporting them and their attempt to convince the school board to stay at the bargaining table until an agreement is reached. Now is not the time for policy discussions. But just so we’re clear on the history of this issue, Vermont-NEA fully supports all of the collective bargaining rights its members enjoy. Vermont-NEA has, however, long proposed moving to a system where both us and local school boards are subject to binding arbitration in the event contract agreements can’t be reached. In exchange for our giving up the right to withhold our labor, school boards would give up their right to impose final working conditions. The dispute would then be put to a mutually agreed upon arbitrator, whose decision would be final.
We have supported this proposal for years. The school boards have adamantly rejected it.
That said, a strike is – and should be – very rare. In the more than four decades since teachers have had collective bargaining rights, more than 5,000 contracts have been successfully and amicably settled. Contract disputes have ended in strikes only 27 times. The system is not broken.
We hope the governor shares our desire for the board to reach an agreement with the teachers, who have been seeking one for nearly a year.