By DON McINTOSH
Students in several Washington school districts are beginning the school year with a lesson in union organizing.
In Seattle, an estimated 6,000 members of Seattle Education Association went on strike Sept. 7, demanding reasonable workloads and class sizes, supports for special education and multilingual learners, and pay levels sufficient that school district employees can afford to live in the city where they work.
About 110 teachers in Eatonville, south of Tacoma, went on strike the same day, over class size, contract length and pay.
Next about 200 teachers in Ridgefield School District went on strike Friday, Sept. 9, shutting all seven schools in their community north of Vancouver. Members of Ridgefield Education Association are calling for more mental health supports in schools and increased staffing for special education classes. They voted by more than 90% Aug. 29 to approve the strike once their previous contract expired Aug. 31.
Seattle teachers voted to suspend the strike and returned to work Sept. 14, after union and management negotiators reached tentative agreement on a new contract. The three-year agreement addresses student to teacher ratios, and includes a 7% raise in the first year of the contract, 4% in the second year, and 3% in the third year.