Teachers Resume Strike; Schools Closed
WARREN, R.I. (AP) _ All five town schools were closed again today as teachers resumed a nearly 3-week-old strike after one day of honoring a judge’s back-to-work order.
School Committee Chairman Robert J. Healey Jr. said the panel would meet in emergency session later today to discuss the work stoppage.
″Obviously, they are in defiance of a court order,″ Healey said. ″There are several legal options. The committee will have to decide which ones they want to implement.″
Healey has said since the illegal strike began on April 21 that he views any possible jailing of the teachers to be a last resort.
″I think there are other options I would prefer to implement. But maybe the other (committee) members feel differently,″ he said.
On Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Paul P. Pederzani Jr. issued a temporary injunction ordering the teachers back to work. If the teachers are found in contempt of that ruling they could face jail.
On the advice of their attorney, teachers returned to classrooms Wednesday. But Andrew Duperron, president of the 115-member National Education Association of Warren, said their ″heart and soul″ was not in the decision to return.
This morning, teachers met briefly and decided to return to picket lines, said Jeanette Woolley, chief negotiator for the teachers’ union. Shortly thereafter, School Superintendent Wilfred R. Marchand ordered the schools closed.
″These teachers feel they are at the end of the road and have no choice,″ Ms. Woolley said of the decision to resume the walkout.
″The teachers intended to get a bargaining session together with the School Committee last night and the School Committee refused and said they would set the conditions for further negotiations. They don’t like the attitude of the School Committee and they haven’t liked it for the last year and a half,″ she said.
Healey said it was impossible for the committee to meet with the union Wednesday night because committee meetings must be posted in advance unless there is an emergency.
″That’s a pretty weak argument. They’re grasping at anything to justify why they are walking out,″ he said.
Healey contended the decision to return to work Wednesday was ″a hoax″ designed to show good faith while the state Supreme Court considered the union’s request to stay the back-to-work order. That request was denied.
The union’s last offer, made Tuesday, was for a three-year contract with 6 percent raises each year. That would give the teachers on top scale salaries of $28,403 this year, $30,108 next year and $31,914 the last year.
The School Committee’s last offer called for an increase in the current top scale of $27,314 to $27,923 this year, $29,598 next year and $31,225 in the last year.
Duperron said the teachers felt that their return to classroom stripped them of bargaining power.
″We’re not going back to work until it (the contract) is done,″ he said.