Melrose teachers union may vote to authorize strike, superintendent says
The Melrose Education Association also announced a vote of no confidence in the mayor and School Committee this week.
The Melrose Public Schools superintendent said Thursday that the district has learned members of the Melrose Education Association, the school employee union, may soon vote to authorize its board to issue a strike order that, in turn, could later mean closed schools for students.
But details of if and when the association — which represents about 450 teachers and school staff — would make that move were unclear when Superintendent Julie Kukenberger announced the possible vote in a letter sent to student families.
“Our understanding at this hour is that the MEA membership may be taking a vote in the near future to authorize the MEA Board to issue a strike order,” the letter states. “If an illegal strike by the MEA appears likely, the School Committee and the Superintendent will have no choice but to close schools for students only when the strike occurs, including all after-school programs, extracurricular activities, and athletics.
“As of today, we intend to open schools, as usual, tomorrow, and next week, but we wanted to alert you to the possibility that there could be a change, depending on the tactics that the MEA leadership decides to pursue.”
Notably, teachers unions — as with all public employees — are barred from striking under Massachusetts state law.
The Massachusetts Teachers Association is now working to change that law, as several illegal strikes in recent years have proven effective at breaking through logjams.
Kikenberger’s letter came as administrators received on Thursday afternoon a notice of mediation from the state to help settle a new three-year contract for unionized school employees after nearly a year of negations. School officials have reached out to the MEA to begin scheduling mediation dates, she said.
“We are hopeful that the leaders of the MEA will not resort to organizing a strike that would disrupt the education of our students,” she said.
The developments also come during a turbulent week in the ongoing contract tensions between the two parties.
On Tuesday, the MEA announced its membership took a vote of no confidence in Melrose Mayor Paul Brodeur and the School Committee, saying in a statement both have allowed contract talks “to grind unnecessarily to a halt.”
“Melrose educators are dismayed by the mayor’s obstinance to bridge small gaps in financial proposals and extremely disappointed in the School Committee’s lack of forward movement on language that would improve working conditions, and ultimately learning conditions, in our schools,” the MEA said.
The words were also read aloud at the committee’s Tuesday meting by MEA President Lisa Donovan, according to Patch.com.
Donovan did not immediately return a request for comment Friday.
The MEA also slammed the city’s decision last month to seek third-party mediation as among its reasons for the vote.
“Walking away from the bargaining table to pursue outside mediation is further evidence of the mayor’s and School Committee’s unwillingness to take responsibility for managing the Melrose Public Schools,” the statement says.
The committee and the MEA announced last month they reached a tentative agreement for a new contract for paraprofessionals in Melrose Public Schools.
But a contract for teachers is still unsettled. Talks have centered on teacher pay and preparation time, among other issues, Patch reports.
In a message Wednesday, the School Committee said it “understands the frustration being experienced by the Melrose Education Association,” according to the online news outlet.
“[W]e are frustrated too,” the committee said, “yet we remain committed to serving our children and families to the highest degree possible within what the district and city can afford.”
Stay up to date on all the latest news from Boston.com
- New emergency rule bans fishermen from parts of Massachusetts Bay for 3 months
- What exactly is wind chill, and how is it calculated? Boston braces for arctic blast.
- Man sprints across Mass. highway to stop woman’s runaway car
- Three concerning trends keep sprouting up during the Bruins’ losing streak
- Body of 96-year-old woman found in Chicago garage freezer