Burlington’s teachers’ union voted overwhelmingly to begin a strike next week if the school board doesn’t return to the bargaining table to negotiate a contract for the current school year.
The board voted to impose a contract on teachers after negotiations failed to reach a deal by the time the old contract expired at the end of August. Fran Brock, a history teacher at Burlington High School who serves as the union’s president, said Thursday that the teachers did not take the decision lightly.
“But given the board's haste in imposing terms of employment less than an hour after our contract expired last week, we want them to know how resolved and united we are in our quest for a contract that attracts and retains the best for Burlington's students,” Brock told the press outside Burlington High School just after the union voted.
Brock did not provide an exact vote tally, but said 95 percent of the teachers voted in favor of a strike. The strike is set to begin Wednesday, September 13, Brock said, unless the board resumes negotiations.
The union’s dissatisfaction, according to Brock, stemmed from the terms of the imposed contract but also the way the school board interacted – or didn’t – with teachers.
“The terms they imposed were not shared with building administrators, nevermind with the teachers, for days. We were all told to check the district’s website. This, as you may expect, made the opening days of school much more chaotic than they needed to be.”
Brock indicated that the union had not yet informed the board of the planned strike.
“They can check our website,” she said when asked if the board had been told.
The teachers gathered behind her laughed.
Brock said the union voted to begin the strike in the middle of next week in order to give families time to plan for the possibility of days, or weeks, without school.
The union vote marks the second year in a row that Burlington teachers have voted to strike. Last year, mediated negotiations brought about a last-minute deal, avoiding a strike.
The school board is scheduled to meet again on Sept. 13, the day before the planned strike.
As the Burlington Free Press reports, teachers in South Burlington rejected a contract that the board imposed last week, but have not voted to strike.