Teachers picketed outside of schools in Dedham, Massachusetts, Friday after a breakdown in negotiations led to the state's first strike of public school teachers in 12 years.
Classes were canceled as teachers held signs and waved to supporters on their first day of striking — an illegal action in Massachusetts.
"This was our last resort... we were left with no options," said Tim Dwyer, the president of the union.
Rachel Dudley, the union bargaining chair, added: "We spend a lot time teaching our students to stand up for themselves and what’s right and our members decided yesterday it’s time to stand up for what we believe in."
The strike came a day after the union voted 248-2 in favor of the action, prompting the school district to cancel classes for the day.
"It's been a long and painful process. I don't think we should be here. I think we can resolve this," 8th grade civics teacher Dan Megan said.
The teachers are calling for what they deem a "fair contract" but are at loggerheads with officials on issues including salary and health care. They also disagree with policies on sexual harassment and student cell phone use.
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont tweeted in support of the strike.
The Dedham School Committee said it was "saddened that the Dedham Education Association would consider this drastic action at this time."
Massachusetts law prohibits strikes by public employees and the Dedham School Committee said it has petitioned with the state’s Department of Labor Relations so it can intervene to prevent the strike. However, the teachers union said they’re willing to accept the fines and other punishment.
Negotiations between the teachers union and the committee had been ongoing for two years before the strike.
U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy who is running for the U.S. Senate rallied with the striking teachers Friday afternoon at the school district's offices.
"There's a fight for economic justice across this country and teachers should be part of it," Kennedy said.
The head of the teachers union says they have been in communication with the superintendent and school committee and hope to sit down at the bargaining table this weekend. In the meantime, all sporting events will go on as scheduled this weekend including the boys varsity football game against Norton.
The teachers union added that another rally is scheduled for noon on Saturday.
"I think once this is resolved, it would be good for everyone," Dedham High School senior Victoria Gonzalez said.
The last teacher strike in the Bay State was in 2007 in Quincy, according to the teachers association.