Teachers' strike to keep Seattle schools closed Tuesday

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 14, 2015 5:48 PM

By Mike Rosenberg

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Seattle's 53,000 public school students will be idled for a fifth day on Tuesday by a citywide teachers' strike after a marathon round of weekend contract talks between the union and school district failed to produce a settlement.

Negotiations were set to resume on Monday afternoon, before striking teachers who had been walking picket lines at city high schools marched to district headquarters for a rally that coincided with the announcement of no classes on Tuesday.

"I understand a lot of people are getting frustrated, and this seems to keep going," Stacy Howard, spokeswoman for Seattle Public Schools, told a news conference.

"We hope to come to a resolution soon."

Teachers in red union shirts waving strike signs tried to attend the news conference after their march but were told by organizers they could not be admitted for "security" reasons.

Some 5,000 teachers and support staff walked off the job last Wednesday on what was to have been the first day of the new school year after negotiations collapsed the night before in a disagreement over wages, hours and performance evaluations.

    One of the teachers' chief grievances is that they have received no cost-of-living raise in six years despite surging living expenses in Seattle, particularly for housing, fueled largely by growth in the city's technology sector.

The strike, which has left many working parents scrambling to improvise child care arrangements, marked the first labor-related disruption of classes in three decades for the largest public education system in the Pacific Northwest.

Once classes do resume, Howard said, the district may have to ask students to attend school on Saturdays, may shorten holidays, or end the school year at a later date.

Representatives for both sides met separately with state mediators during the first three days of the strike, but face-to-face talks between the parties did not resume until Saturday.

The two negotiating teams returned to the bargaining table on Sunday without reaching an accord, and classes were canceled again on Monday for all of the district's nearly 100 schools.

Union spokesman Rich Wood said a fund-raiser held Sunday night raised thousands of dollars for striking teachers.

"The picket lines resumed this morning, and those are looking strong," Wood said on Monday.

Union officials have said one stumbling block was a district proposal that sought to lengthen the school day by 20 minutes with virtually no corresponding increase in pay for teachers.

(Reporting by Mike Rosenberg; Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Eric Beech)