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State and local government.

State and local government About 21,000 teachers represented by the Washington Education Association walked off their jobs in 32 school districts in the western part of the State of Washington in protest over wage increases and State funding of education. The 12-day work stoppage reportedly was the largest teachers' strike in the State and resulted in the closing of schools attended by 300,000 of 800,000 public school students, including those in Seattle, Olympia, and Tacoma.

Because Washington teachers' salary levels are set by the State legislature, they are generally the same throughout the State for any given level of experience and education. The school districts the striking teachers work in are located in relatively high cost-of living areas within the State.

The teachers sought $350 million for school construction, smaller classes, more school supplies, and a 10-percent wage increase over 2 years. Their specific demands included:

At least $50 million to reduce the

existing student-teacher ratio from

19 to 1 to the national average of

16.4 to 1.

Funding education as a constant percent

of the general fund budget.

Establishing a new education funding formula (for allocating State education funds to local school districts) that recognizes the special needs of low-income, disabled, and urban students.

"Reasonable" cost-of-living adjustment increases for retired teachers. At least $300 million for school construction. Permitting local school districts to raise property taxes to help fund local education. Providing funding for inflationary increases in costs for school expenditures such as textbooks, supplies, and utilities.

The teachers had hoped to force the State legislature to hold a special session to consider increased funding for education, but the legislature recessed after its regular session. Although the teachers returned to their classrooms without a formal agreement, budget plans issued by the Governor and the State legislature reportedly had already proposed wage increases averaging 8.2 percent, with veteran teachers receiving 7.5 percent. (The current average base salary for Washington teachers reportedly is $32,975.)

Elsewhere, almost 5,000 State government workers, represented by the Montana Public Employees Association and the Montana Federation of State Employees, also walked off their jobs in protest over wages. Their wages had been frozen for 2 years. (The unions' 2-year contract, which expired June 30, gave State employees the right to strike after December 31, 1990.)

The 5-day work stoppage began when the State House of Representatives failed to override the Governor's veto of legislation that would have provided most State workers with a general wage increase of 60 cents an hour. The Governor had sought larger increases for professional workers and smaller raises for nonprofessional employees. (Current starting salaries range from $13,785 a year for secretaries to $29,015 a year for lawyers.) The work stoppage ended when the Governor signed a $34 million spending bill authorizing general wage increases of $1.15 an hour over 2 years and an increase of $20 a year per employee in the State's contribution to health insurance.
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Title Annotation:teachers strike in 32 school districts in the western part of Washington State; 5,000 Montana State government employees walked off their jobs in protest over wages
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Jul 1, 1991
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