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Seattle teachers union members authorize strike; district cancels school Wednesday

Sept. 6, 2022 Updated Tue., Sept. 6, 2022 at 8:02 p.m.

By Jeanie Lindsay Seattle Times

Seattle teachers are poised to strike, and the first day of school has been canceled.

The Seattle Education Association announced Tuesday that 95% of its members who voted on the measure approved a strike authorization over Labor Day weekend, after its board recommended members do so last week. According to the union, 75% of its members voted.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the district posted on its website that there would be no school Wednesday, and that “school will be delayed until further notice because of a planned work stoppage by the Seattle educators’ union.”

The authorization does not guarantee a strike will happen, but union leaders have called for one if the union and the school district cannot cut a deal.

“Our Bargaining Team continues to work at the table and we still hope to announce an agreement rather than a strike tonight,” the union told members in an email.

The Seattle Education Association, a roughly 6,000-member union, has been in negotiations with Seattle Public Schools for months. The group is focused largely on higher pay and services for special education and multilingual students. The district is offering a package of increases for all union members, including substitutes, as well as one-time incentives for some categories of teachers.

Part of the union’s demands are that the district maintains staffing ratios for special education and multilingual learners and that the district seeks more staff input as it aims to provide services for those students in general education classrooms. The union also wants the district to guarantee interpretation services during meetings with families and translation of documents for special education students.

Seattle isn’t the only district facing a rocky start to the school year. Kent teachers went on strike Aug. 25, calling for pay raises and more manageable caseloads for educators working with English learners and special education students.

During a video call announcing the strike authorization, Leschi Elementary School teacher Jamillah Bomani said she and other teachers have been in the building preparing for the start of the school year, but are going to do “whatever it takes” to ensure students and staff have adequate support from the district after the challenges of the previous school year.

“We want to be here on Wednesday, we want to be ready, but we want to make sure we are coming back to school with everything we need and everything our students need.” she said. “We are still holding out hope that something will happen and we can come tomorrow.”

The Seattle Education Association was holding a rally at the district’s main office Tuesday afternoon.

In an update sent to teachers, the union said it hopes to announce an agreement later Tuesday instead as the bargaining team continues to negotiate with the district, but should that not happen picket lines start at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday.

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