Lawmaker Says Support Grows For Bill To Limit Teachers’ Strikes
HARRISBURG (AP) _ Anger over this year’s round of teachers’ strikes is building support for a bill requiring teachers to use secret ballots and give advance notice before walking out of classrooms, a state lawmaker says.
But the president of the state’s largest teachers’ union counters that the bill would unfairly tilt the bargaining advantage to school boards.
Rep. Stephen Freind, R-Delaware, said a growing number of school boards, businesses and citizen groups are supporting his bill.
″Literally thousands of people are outraged by strikes, and students are just as angry and, more importantly, are again being prevented from receiving an education,″ he said in a statement Tuesday.
As of Tuesday, 14 districts were on strike across the state.
Freind’s bill, pending in the House Labor Relations Committee, would require teacher unions to get approval from 50 percent of the eligible members of the bargaining unit voting by secret ballot before a strike could begin. Union locals now decide their own rules.
Teachers also would have to give 48 hours’ notice of a strike. Selective strikes would be banned.
Freind said teachers’ strikes interfere with the education of the future workforce and help teachers pressure for higher salaries, which push up taxes.
″The deck is stacked against the school districts,″ Freind said at a news conference.
But Annette Palutis, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, said the bill would turn collective bargaining into ″collective begging.″
″These are all little things that are dictating to a union how to conduct its business,″ she said.
Ms. Palutis, whose union has about 120,000 members, said many locals already have secret ballots, and school boards usually have ample notice that a strike is coming.
She also defended selective strikes because they allow teachers to strike without closing schools.
Freind was accompanied by state business leaders who support the bill. The chairman of the Capital Region Chamber of Commerce, Pat Gingrich, said selective strikes disrupt communities.
And Joe Oravitz, executive director of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, said in a telephone interview that he supports the secret ballot provision of the bill because sometimes teachers are against a strike but don’t want to openly oppose their colleagues.