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Buffalo Teachers Group Calls Strike

September 7, 2000

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) _ Buffalo’s teachers went on strike Thursday after union executives rejected the Board of Education’s contract offer, forcing the cancellation of what would have been the second day of school for 47,000 students.

While parents had to scramble for child-care arrangements, District Superintendent Marion Canedo said students who reported for school would be cared for.

In three other labor disputes, Eastern Michigan University accused striking faculty members of unfair labor practices, and hundreds of workers at the University of Texas at Austin began a three-day sickout, saying they are tired of what they call unfair working conditions.

The Philadelphia School District and its teachers, meanwhile, reported some progress during contract talks as the immediate threat of a strike appeared to fade.

Students were back for the first day of school Thursday, and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers said it was unlikely the union would call a strike before next week because a court order allows teachers to work under terms of their old contract until 5 p.m. Monday.

``It gives us a little bit of breathing room, so students and teachers can go back to the classroom, which is what everybody wants, while talks go on,″ union spokeswoman Barbara Goodman said.

Union and district officials in Buffalo said negotiators were at odds over wages, health care concessions and a provision to contract with social agencies outside the district to serve troubled students.

``This move is something that we’ve been forced into,″ Buffalo teachers union President Philip Rumore said. ``This is not something that we do lightly.″

The teachers stand to lose two days’ pay for each day on strike and could face jail time for defying a court injunction prohibiting the action. The union has a $5.5 million strike fund.

Throughout the city, parents unaware of the strike walked with children to schools and found pockets of picketing teachers.

The district’s 3,800 teachers are working under the terms of a deal that expired in June 1999.

``We’re all very sad. We’re sad for us and sad for the children,″ said reading teacher Sue Webster as she picketed outside a school. ``We’d all much rather be inside.″

Board of Education spokesman Andrew Maddigan called the action ``extremely irresponsible.″

Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti filed an unfair labor practices charge with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission against the American Association of University Professors, which represents the 687 tenured and tenure-track professors who went on strike Tuesday morning.

The school’s three allegations: the AAUP violated its duty to bargain in good faith by insisting on bargaining to impasse over restrictions on the appointment of lecturers who are represented by another union and by demanding minimum staffing levels by tenured and tenure-track faculty; the AAUP has engaged in a strike that is illegal; and the union has taken a nonnegotiable and fixed position on intellectual property.

A union spokesman didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

At the University of Texas, the 17,000 non-teaching employees are seeking pay raises, including an hourly minimum of $9.16, and want their insurance premiums to remain unchanged.

The university has said it was forced to raise premiums to offset rising insurance costs. Workers earning $30,000 a year or less were given a $50-a-month raise to help offset the increases.

University operations were normal Wednesday, the first day of the three-day work disruption, said Pat Clubb, vice president of employee and campus operations.

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