Teachers in Woburn, Massachusetts, will continue their strike Tuesday, causing schools to remain closed.
After educators and the city failed to reach an agreement on contracts over the weekend, class was out on Monday. More than 500 teachers in the district were protesting outside all the schools in Woburn, but many of them had moved to Joyce Middle School, where negotiations had been slated to start around 9 a.m.
The Woburn Teachers Association said Mayor Scott Galvin and school committee were refusing to negotiate — something Galvin denied Monday night when he said no deal had been reached.
"We've been negotiating all day, started at 9 o'clock. The union erroneously reported out that we weren't bargaining, which is not true. We spent a long day and made some progress," Galvin said. "Unfortunately, the teachers will be continuing their illegal strike tomorrow."
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Woburn Teachers Association President Barbara Locke said Monday night that Galvin's side had refused to negotiate until about 2 p.m.
"We came to the table this morning, hoping to come to an agreement and to get back to school tomorrow — that was our goal. Unfortunately, when we walked in, the district came in — the mayor and two school committee members — sat down and said they would not bargain with our silent bargaining reps in the room. They said that they were on strike and that they were not allowed in the building. We proceeded to say we're a team, and we would not do that. You're not going to divide us," Locke said. "So it became very contentious, they walked out after two minutes, after stating that, and we pretty much took the whole morning, until about 2 o'clock, to convince them to start to bargain."
Locke added that some progress was made after both sides were at the table.
"We did work to get some proposals, back and forth. We felt we were making some headway. And they came back with a proposal at about eight o'clock, and then decided to go home," Locke said. "Let me change that: They decided to quit."
"We're not at all happy about it, and I don't know how anybody in the city could be happy about it," Galvin said. "We're working hard, we've got a good offer on the table, good package on the table."
According to court paperwork, the Commonwealth Employment Relations Board, a state agency that acts as an intermediary during labor disputes, filed an injunction Monday on behalf of the Woburn School Committee to try to force teachers off the picket line and back to class. A judge had not made a decision on that request as of Monday.
The sticking points included pay for teachers and paraprofessionals, as well as class size.
Both sides said they didn’t want it to come to this, but after 25 negotiation sessions – Sunday's for eight hours – no deal meant no school on Monday.
Tensions were high Sunday night between Galvin and the more than 500 members of the Woburn Teachers Association — after the union called for the strike and the mayor called off school for the more than 4,000 students in the city.
Mayor Galvin said they offered 10% pay increases for teachers over three years, and the union countered with 14.75%.
The teachers association said they’re not only focused on their pay, but the pay for paraprofessionals, as well as smaller class sizes.
“We’re not trying to be millionaires," Woburn Teachers Association President Barbara Locke said. "We’re just trying to make a livable wage so we can feed our families, and especially our ESPs. Such a darn shame.”
The city's mayor fired back at the teachers.
“The kids are going to be inconvenienced, the parents are going to be inconvenienced, and for the teachers to say they have no other options, it’s outrageous," Mayor Galvin said.
City officials have said they’re joining with the state division of labor to get an injunction to stop the strike, likely with large fines, if it continues.
“Their illegal strike is not going to be used as a bargaining chip and they’re not going to use it to hijack the negotiations,” Mayor Galvin said.
However, union leaders said the threat of an injunction won’t stop their resolve to get what they call a living wage for all educators in Woburn.
“They’ll be starting to fine the association and use fear tactics, you’re going to lose your job and all that kind of stuff, but again we need to fight for something," Locke said.
It was unclear Monday morning when the mayor and superintendent would make a decision on school Tuesday.