September 16, 2011 in Region

Tacoma teachers defy judge’s order

Donna Gordon Blankinship Associated Press
Associated Press photo

High school students cheer striking teachers in front of a Tacoma School District building on Thursday.
(Full-size photo)

TACOMA – Teachers in Washington’s third-largest school district voted overwhelmingly Thursday to remain on strike, in defiance of a judge’s order that they return to work.

Some 93 percent of the nearly 1,600 teachers at the Tacoma Dome arena said they wanted to keep picketing.

The Tacoma School District teachers walked out Tuesday over issues including pay, class size and how job transfers are handled. A state judge issued an order Wednesday that they go back to class, but they refused. Many students have joined the picket lines.

“Each time we have this vote, it gets stronger,” said Tacoma Education Association President Andy Coons.

The 1,900 teachers had been working without a contract since school started Sept. 1. After weekend contract negotiations failed to result in an agreement, 87 percent of the union’s membership voted to walk out.

Classes were canceled for a third day and 28,000 students kept home. Representatives of the union and school district were meeting with a state mediator.

The district has argued in court that 19 different judges in Washington state have ruled teacher strikes illegal since 1976. The union argued that the court should not inject itself into the bargaining process, and also suggested an injunction only applies to union leaders.

Tacoma teachers earned an average salary of $63,793 during the last school year, according to the district. They are the best-paid teachers in Pierce County and about the fifth-highest paid among the state’s largest districts, according to state data.

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