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Pittsburgh Teachers Give Union Authorization To Call A Strike

Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers
A ballot asking Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers members for authorization to call a strike.

The vast majority of members of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers who voted Monday authorized the union to call a strike.

In all, 94 percent of members voted in favor of the strike, while about 17 percent of the 2,955 members did not vote at all.

The approval does not necessarily mean the 2,400 teachers will walk out. The union’s executive board would have to agree and give the district 48 hours notice. The board will meet Thursday before the two parties are scheduled for all day negotiations Friday.

Teachers union president Nina Esposito-Visgitis said that the members did not take the vote lightly.

“This clearly is a demonstration that our members feel strongly about the items that we are still negotiating and want a contract that is good for students and fair to educators,” she said in a statement.

The district’s spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

The district and the union have been negotiating for more than a year-and-a-half for three contracts that would cover teachers, paraprofessionals and clerical workers. Five-year contracts ran out in June 2015. Union members have been working under the terms of the previous contract until that extension expired in June 2017.

Negotiations stalled late last month when the district and PFT failed to agree on issues including salaries, contract lengths, class size and health care benefits.

A state-appointed fact finder issued a report in November detailing sticking points. The district accepted the report while the union rejected suggestions.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto is urging the parties to agree on a contract saying a strike would create a major disruption for families.

“We are already getting involved in what that would look like for parents to have their children somewhere,” he said Monday. “We don’t have the capacity to have 25,000 children put into daycare overnight.”

Peduto told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette earlier this month that district administrators have been unwilling to meet with him in an attempt to mediate negotiations. A state-appointed mediator has been working with both parties since November. 

Pittsburgh education advocacy group A Plus Schools is coordinating organizations that could care for children in the event of a teacher strike.

The group has distributed forms for caregivers and volunteers asking what would be needed and who could help. PPS serves 24,000 students.  

Pittsburgh Public teachers haven’t gone on strike in more than 40 years.