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Andover Mass High

Teachers' refusal to enter school buildings in Andover, Mass., is an illegal strike, state labor board says

Sept. 9, 2020
Teachers balked at reporting for in-service training because of fears that the buildings were unsafe.

Teachers in Andover, Mass., who refused to enter school buildings for work last week engaged in an unlawful strike, the state labor relations board has ruled.

The Brockton Enteprise reports that the Commonwealth Employment Relations Board ordered union leaders and members to desist from engaging in any work stoppage.

Aug. 31 was supposed to be the first of 10 in-person professional development days for teachers before students start, but many teachers said they would not enter buildings because of concerns that they would be putting themselves at risk of contracting the Covid-19 virus.

The Andover School Committee filed a petition with the Department of Labor the following day, calling for a strike investigation.

“These are unprecedented times, and we are not unsympathetic to the union’s concerns over the health and safety implications of requiring its members to work inside school buildings or its desire to bargain to resolution with the School Committee over these issues before its members return to work inside school buildings,” the board wrote.

“However, the union cites no legislation, permission, reasonable accommodation or bargained-for agreement that permitted its members without consequence, to unilaterally dictate where they perform their work.”

[From last week: Teachers in Andover (Mass.) district won't enter buildings for in-service sessions]

The Massachusetts Teachers Association says it strongly disagrees with the labor board's ruling.

“Andover educators only asked for transparency, information, and cooperation in order to ensure the safety of students, educators and their community," Association President Merrie Najimy says. "In response, they were met with autocratic decision-making and litigation. The CERB decision aligns with the Baker administration’s attitude of proceeding toward ‘normalcy’ until something tragic happens.

"It calls for risk-taking over prudent planning, and the health and safety issues remain unresolved. That is reckless and shameful. The MTA vehemently disagrees with the decision—and educators will not be silenced.”

The Andover district is set to begin the school year on Sept. 16 with a hybrid schedule for students.

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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