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Haverhill teachers voted Friday afternoon to strike Monday if state-ordered mediation, taking place this weekend, doesn’t achieve a breakthrough.
Haverhill School Committee and Haverhill Education Association negotiators are talking this weekend under emergency orders by the state Labor Relations Board, which reportedly warned union members not to take a strike vote or walk off the job, which is illegal under state law. Haverhill teachers were joined by their counterparts in Malden in declaring impasses and voting to strike if mediation fails. Haverhill Education Association President Tim Briggs and Malden Education Association President Deb Gesualdo issued a joint statement.
“It is no coincidence that the educators in both Haverhill and Malden took votes today to authorize strikes if their respective contracts are not settled before Monday. Several unions representing thousands of educators in communities north of Boston meet regularly to discuss our working conditions, which are our students’ learning conditions. The educators in Haverhill and Malden have been working without contracts. The respective unions have made numerous proposals to address staffing shortages, racial and social justice, safety in schools, adequate time for educators to prepare and collaborate and wages that have been chronically suppressed. The school committees in both communities are showing no interest in addressing needs we see as critical to our students’ success,” they said in a press release.
The Haverhill School Committee also released a statement Friday night.
“If the union follows through on their vote for an illegal job action, schools will be closed to students on Monday, however all employees will be expected to report to work. We recognize that closing school for students will create a burden for many of our parents, who may be forced to leave their children home alone because they cannot afford to miss work,” the statement said.
Should teachers refuse to work Monday, the Haverhill School Committee said it will join the state Labor Relations Board at Essex Superior Court in Salem to file an enforcement action against the union for violating the board’s ruling prohibiting a strike.
“Not only is a strike detrimental to the children and families of Haverhill, it is also illegal here in Massachusetts. Striking does nothing to bring us together to come to a mutual decision on a contract which is fair and equitable for our teachers, Haverhill families and taxpayers,” said Scott W. Wood Jr., chairman of the Haverhill Teachers Negotiating Subcommittee.
Teachers said they plan rally Saturday, first at 1 p.m. at Haverhill City Hall, and then 4 p.m. at Malden City Hall.
The Haverhill and Malden unions concluded, “We are saying enough is enough. Our students deserve better, our communities deserve better, and we deserve better. We acknowledge the disruption our strikes can cause. But we can no longer in good conscience see our students receive less than they deserve and for educators to be continually disrespected as professionals. We are ready to bargain any time to settle these contracts. Our respective school committees have the power and authority to avert these actions.”
Should classes be cancelled, the city said schools are partnering with local organizations to provide information about child care and meals. There’s more at haverhill-ps.org.