Strikes: “The reality is, that’s the one card we have,”


The forced-dues state of Pennsylvania has held this dubious title for many years.   Despite a law that imposes some restrictions on teacher strikes, monopoly bargaining allows teacher union officials to do what they please and emerge relatively unscathed. Maria Degnan, president of the Ringgold Education Association, admits a strike is the power that keeps teacher union officials in business.  Mike Tony has the story in the Herald Standard.

A recent study by the Commonwealth Foundation, a Harrisburg-based free-market think tank, found that Pennsylvania has had 131 teacher strikes since 1999, leading the nation and affecting 300,000 students.

The Commonwealth Foundation noted a 2012 Mother Jones study that found that nearly 90 percent of teacher strikes in the previous four decades had happened in Pennsylvania.

Commonwealth Foundation Director of Policy Analysis Elizabeth Stelle noted that Pennsylvania ranks in the top 10 nationally in number of school districts at 500, adding to the Keystone State’s propensity for teacher strikes.

And teacher salaries are set by the legislature in states that have endured recent statewide strikes such as West Virginia and Oklahoma, while in Pennsylvania, it’s up to local school boards and teacher unions to resolve contract disputes.

Stelle said that it was concerning that there is no penalty imposed on teachers who go on strike in Pennsylvania, where striking is legalized by state Act 88 of 1992.

The state Department of Education has the authority to seek a court injunction when a teachers strike threatens to prevent a school district from providing 180 days of instruction by June 30.

“We certainly know that the ability to strike has not brought more labor peace,” Stelle said.

But the ability to strike is one of the only options that Maria Degnan, president of the Ringgold Education Association representing the district’s 210 teachers, guidance counselors and nurses, felt her union had amid contract negotiations last year.

“The reality is, that’s the one card we have,” Degnan said.


Stelle thinks that teacher contract negotiations need greater transparency.

Stelle noted three bills designed to bring further transparency to the collective bargaining process in the state Legislature awaiting a full Senate vote.

Senate Bill 168, whose prime sponsor is Sen. Pat Stefano, R-Bullskin Township, would require proposed collective bargaining agreements made by a public employer or received by a public employer from an employee organization to be posted on the public employer’s website within 48 hours of receipt.

Senate Bill 503 would subject negotiation sessions related to collective bargaining agreements to open meetings under the Sunshine Act, while Senate Bill 504 would make collective bargaining negotiations, including settlement offers, subject to the state’s Right-to-Know law.