Wearing red shirts and chanting, “What do we want? A contract! When do we want it? Now!” To the beat of a drum, nearly a hundred Brookline public teachers and their supporters held a rally on Saturday, days after they voted to strike Monday if their demands for a new contract are not met.
Members of the Brookline Educators Union voted Thursday night to authorize the strike if their negotiating team and the Brookline School Committee fail to reach an agreement this weekend. The BEU is striving for wage increases, better working conditions and hiring more teachers from underrepresented groups.
The school board is scheduled to meet Saturday night to address the union’s demands.
“This is what democracy looks like. Democracy doesn’t stop at the door of the workplace and a thousand BEU members said this week when they said they were done with the disrespect,” Jessica Wender-Shubow, BEU President, said before the rally outside Brookline City Hall.
“You’re done stalling. They’re done with a school committee and a selection panel saying they don’t have to provide fair learning conditions for Brookline’s students. It is time to change the tone and approach in this city.”
The union said in a recent statement that Brookline educators have been working without a contract for nearly three years “who are concerned with fair and equitable remuneration and working conditions consistent with the realities of modern comprehensive education.”
It also requires more time each day for educators to prepare for students and collaborate with peers, and for the district to hire and retain more educators of color.
English teacher Julia Speyer, a member of BEU’s negotiating team, said the union’s vote to prepare for next week’s strike was meant to send a strong message.
“What your vote did – what that collective message said – was that the school committee’s tactic of administering poison pills and reducing negotiations to ‘you take what we offer or we’ll give you something worse'” will fail,” said Speyer crowd.
As she spoke at the rally, Wender-Shubow held up a red placard that read “Brookline Educators On Strike” in white letters. The crowd responded with thunderous applause.
“We’ll keep them ready today, tonight and tomorrow,” said Wender-Shubow.
“We hope we don’t have to and never have to use the signs. But if we don’t use them this week, we will use them the next time we run into them because we won’t be stopped anymore – spend two, three years being told they don’t have enough time to fulfill and that they do not include working conditions in the contract.”
According to the school board, negotiations for the 2020-23 contracts began in spring 2021. Negotiations with teachers lasted until last fall. In February, the federal government commissioned a mediator to accompany the process.
On the table is a school board proposal for two consecutive three-year agreements for a 6 percent overall pay rise from September 1, 2020 to August 31, 2023, followed by an 8 percent increase from September 1, 2023 to August 31 2026. The raises, the committee said, are in addition to contractual “increments” that provide most teachers with automatic annual salary increases.
In a statement Thursday, the school committee said it met for hours in an executive session to discuss BEU’s counter-offer, which would call for other changes it received two days earlier.
“We are preparing a written counter-proposal that we will send to the BEU prior to the first of our two previously scheduled arbitration sessions on Saturday evening, May 14 and Monday, May 16,” the statement said.
The last day of school at Brookline is scheduled for June 23rd.
Bob Miller, a science teacher and BEU vice president, said school committee members need to realize that it’s not the expensive school buildings they’ve built over the years that make Brookline schools great, it’s the people in those buildings.
“It’s high time the school committee listened to the people doing the work,” he said.
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https://www.boston.com/news/local-news/2022/05/14/teachers-union-holds-rally-after-voting-to-strike/ The teachers union holds a rally after voting to go on strike