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Salary impasse has Philadelphia teachers union considering strike

Oct. 20, 2020
The district and its teachers have been unable to reach agreement on a one-year contract

Philadelphia public school teachers could consider their first strike vote in decades as talks with the city school district on a one-year contract extension drag on with no end in sight.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) is looking for a deal in line with what two large city unions got earlier this year: extensions with raises in the 2% range. It’s also seeking for pay bumps for years of experience and education.

Union president Jerry Jordan says the two sides have been unable to reach an agreement.

“The district has decided that they are unwilling, at this time, to resolve our one year contract extension,” Jordan wrote in an email to 13,000 teachers, nurses, counselors, secretaries, and other school workers. “And as I shared with you, it is necessary for me to ask you to consider authorizing me to call for a strike if (and only if) we reach a point that negotiations have entirely stalled.”

If a strike is called, it would be the first such action in years. The teachers’ union was forbidden by state law from striking during the 17-year state takeover that ended in 2018.

Monica Lewis, a spokesperson for the district, says the school system “remains in constant contact with the PFT leadership. We are hopeful that we can come to a resolution. We know that our teachers are just as committed to the students of Philadelphia as we are.”

Salaries for Philadelphia teachers range from $45,360 to $91,852 a year.

The news of the possible strike vote comes a week after Jordan asked his members to consider a “work to rule” action that would have them work only during contracted hours.

Jordan has previously said the district was trying to “shake down” the union by tying raises to an endorsement of the district’s reopening plan. The PFT signed off on provisions for personal protective equipment and social distancing and was consulted, but was not given final say over other elements.

All 120,000 Philadelphia students are attending classes virtually; district officials last week announced plans to return up to 32,000 prekindergarten through second-grade students to buildings two days a week beginning Nov. 30.

Some other students could return by February, but there is no current timetable for when the majority of those in grades three through 12 could come back.

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