Members of the union representing roughly 6,000 Seattle teachers voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to strike the following day—a move the labor group says it hopes to avoid, as public school classes are set to resume on Wednesday.
The Seattle Education Association (SEA) announced Tuesday that of the 75% of its members who voted, 95% elected to authorize a strike, which is set to begin at 7:30 am Wednesday absent an agreement with Seattle Public Schools (SPS) officials.
"None of us want to strike. SPS has forced us to because of its repeated refusal to provide our students with the supports they need to thrive," SEA explained in a statement. "Our bargaining team continues to work at the table and we still hope to announce an agreement rather than a strike tonight."
Jamillah Bomani, a fourth grade teacher at Leschi Elementary School, told KING-TV that "we want to come to school for our students, we want to be here on Wednesday, we want to be ready. But we want to make sure we are coming back to school with everything we need and everything our students need."
"So we are still holding out hope that something will happen and we can come tomorrow," she added, "but we are ready and willing, if we need to, to let the district know that we're not going to show up if we don't have everything our students need."
SEA's strike priorities are:
- Supports for students in special education and multilingual education, for students in the schools with highest needs, and for interpretation and translation;
- Workload, caseload, and class size controls to prevent educators from burnout; and
- Respectful, competitive pay so that educators can live in the communities where they work.
"Our students' needs are greater than I've seen in my career, yet the SPS wants to pursue a distraction rather than an agreement to improve student supports," SEA president Jennifer Matter said in a statement.
"We call on SPS to stop the distractions and instead match our urgency to get to a tentative agreement that better serves our students," she added.
SEA paraprofessional president Marla Rasmussen, who is apart of the union's bargaining team, told KING-TV that "we have been here every day, putting in the hours from early in the morning to late at night."
"We will continue to do so; we're prepared to stay all night as long as it takes, we've done it before and we'll do it again," she added. "It's really important that we have your support and backing and understanding that we are all in this together in solidarity."
SPS said in a statement that the district asked SEA to consider a memorandum of understanding (MOU) "that would have guaranteed an on-time start to school, while allowing negotiations to continue in earnest. At this time, SEA has rejected the proposed MOU."
"Starting school on Wednesday is what is best for our students," the statement added. "We understand this uncertainty about a delay is difficult and unsettling for our students, staff, and families. We hope that SEA will reconsider this MOU and sign it before Tuesday."
The looming strike comes as teachers in nearby Kent—who are seeking higher pay and more manageable caseloads—continued a strike that began August 25.
Teachers in Port Angeles on the Olympic Peninsula are set to strike if a deal on a new contract is not reached by the end of Tuesday.