Wearing red T-shirts and singing, “What do we want? Contract! When do we want it? Now!” to the beat of a drum, nearly a hundred Brookline public teachers and their supporters held a rally on Saturday, days after voting to strike from Monday if their demands for a new contract are not satisfied.
Members of the Brookline Educators’ Union voted Thursday night to authorize a strike if their bargaining team and the Brookline school committee failed to reach an agreement this weekend. The BEU is calling for pay rises, better working conditions and the hiring of more teachers from underrepresented groups.
The school committee is due to meet on Saturday evening to respond to the union’s demands.
“This is what democracy looks like. Democracy doesn’t stop at the workplace door and a thousand BEU members said so this week, when they said they were done with the lack of respect,” BEU President Jessica Wender-Shubow said at the rally outside Brookline Town Hall.
“They are done with the dropout. They are done with a school committee and a select council who say they don’t have to have fair learning conditions for Brookline students. It’s time for a change of tone and approach in this city.
The union said in a recent statement that Brookline educators have been working without contracts for nearly three years “that address fair and reasonable compensation and working conditions that meet the realities of a modern, comprehensive education.”
It also takes more time each day for educators to prepare for students and collaborate with colleagues, as well as for the district to hire and retain more educators of color.
English teacher Julia Speyer, a member of the BEU’s bargaining team, said the union’s vote in favor of preparing for the strike next week was meant to send a strong message.
“What your vote did – what this collective message said – was that the school committee’s tactic of putting in poison pills and reducing the negotiation to ‘You take what we offer or we give something worse “is going to fail,” Speyer told the crowd.
As she spoke at the rally, Wender-Shubow held up a red sign that read “Brookline Educators On Strike” in white letters. The crowd responded with thunderous applause.
“We’re going to keep them ready today, tonight and tomorrow,” Wender-Shubow said.
“We hope we don’t have to use the panels and we never have to use them. But if we don’t use them this week, we’ll use them the next time we run into this because we’re not going to be stuck anymore – spending two, three years being told they don’t have enough time to respect and that they will not put working conditions in the contract.
According to the school committee, he began negotiations on contracts for 2020-23 in the spring of 2021. Negotiations with teachers continued until last fall. In February, a mediator was appointed by the federal government to assist the process.
On the table is a proposal from the school board for two consecutive three-year agreements for a general salary increase of 6% over the period from September 1, 2020 to August 31, 2023, followed by an increase of 8% from September 1, 2023. to Aug. 31, 2026. The raises, the committee said, are in addition to contractual “steps” that provide automatic annual salary increases for most teachers.
In a statement on Thursday, the school committee said it met in executive session for hours to discuss the BEU’s counteroffer demanding further changes it had received two days earlier.
“We are preparing a written counter-proposal, which we will send to the BEU before the first of our two mediation sessions previously scheduled for the evenings of Saturday May 14 and Monday May 16,” the statement said.
The last day of school at Brookline is scheduled for June 23.
Bob Miller, science teacher and BEU vice president, said school board members need to realize that it’s not the expensive school buildings they’ve built over the years that make Brookline schools great. , but the people who are there.
“It’s high time for the school committee to listen to the people doing the work,” he said.
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