Seattle teachers are poised to go on strike over a flurry of demands, including more money, threatening to delay the start of the school year.
The Seattle Education Association said Tuesday that members of the teachers union have voted to authorize a strike if the union does not reach a deal with the school district by Tuesday evening.
The school year is set to begin on Wednesday for Seattle Public Schools, Washington state’s largest school district.
“Our Bargaining Team continues to work at the table and we still hope to announce an agreement rather than a strike tonight,” the union said in an email to members.
About 75% of the union’s 6,000 members voted on the issue, and about 95% of those voted in favor of the strike over the long weekend, according to the union. Last week, the union’s board recommended members vote in favor.
The union has been locked in negotiations with the Seattle school district for months. The union’s main demands are higher pay, teacher workload caps, and a guarantee that the district will maintain certain staffing ratios for multilingual and special education students.
One teacher, Jamillah Bomani of Leschi Elementary School, said teachers want to come to school on Wednesday, but they also want to make sure they have “everything we need.”
“We want to be here on Wednesday, we want to be ready, but we want to make sure we are coming back to school with everything we need and everything our students need,” she said during a video call announcing the strike authorization.
“So we are still holding out hope that something will happen and we can come tomorrow, but we are ready and willing if we need to to let the district know that we’re not going to show up if we don’t have everything our students need,” Bomani said.
The union told teachers it hopes to announce a deal with the district later on Tuesday, but if they cannot reach one, the strike will move forward.
Picket lines start at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday barring a deal.
“We will continue to do so, we’re prepared to stay all night as long as it takes, we’ve done it before and we’ll do it again. It’s really important that we have your support and backing and understanding that we are all in this together in solidarity,” she said.
Teachers in Washington’s fourth-largest school district, Kent, are also currently on strike.
Earlier this year, teachers across the country went on strike over a slew of issues, including demands for remote learning, higher pay, and smaller class sizes. Teachers unions authorized strikes in Chicago, Sacramento, and Minneapolis, among other places.
In early January, the Chicago Teachers Union shut down the country’s third-largest school district, demanding more pandemic safety measures, including more remote learning, face masks, and COVID testing. The strike cost Chicago students five school days.