Euclid Teachers Association files 10-day strike notice in suburban Cleveland, Ohio

On January 21, the Euclid Teachers Association (ETA), which bargains on behalf of approximately 420 teachers in suburban Cleveland, Ohio, filed a 10-day strike notice with the Euclid Board of Education. ETA will now have to hold a membership vote to approve the strike.

Teachers have been working without a contract since the start of the school year. ETA and the board began contract negotiations last spring, with the latest round of negotiations taking place the day before the strike notice was filed. This is the second time the union has issued a strike notice in the past three months.

Euclid High School (Screenshot)

ETA says the main sticking point in the negotiations is the board’s demand that administrators be able to reassign teachers to other classes in the middle of the school year. “The Board requires administrators to have the power to remove teachers from their classrooms and reassign them at any time during the school year to any class of the Board’s choosing,” the union said in a recent statement. communicated. These changes to classes would “destroy the teacher-student relationship which is an important foundation for learning,” the statement said.

The Euclid School Board, in recent statements, confirmed that negotiations have reached an impasse due to the board’s request. The board also claimed it was offering “one of the largest pay raises among any school district in Ohio” in response to the ongoing economic instability during the pandemic.

The council also said that if a strike takes place, classes “must and will continue”. It is currently unclear who will teach the approximately 4,700 students in the event of a strike.

The next round of negotiations between the board and ETA is scheduled to take place on January 26.

While ETA has claimed that in the event of a strike the teachers will be absent until a contract is agreed, it is entirely possible that a strike will be averted by the council and the union.

Throughout the negotiations, ETA officials said strike action was a last resort. In November, the union went so far as to file a 10-day strike notice and held a strike authorization vote. Although educators voted to strike, ETA did not ask teachers to leave work and instead chose to call for limited protests.

The contract dispute at Euclid City Schools is representative of the broader public education crisis in Ohio and across the United States. Administrators hope to continue the decades-long assault on teachers’ conditions, but are being held back by fears their actions could further exacerbate teacher shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, the official teachers’ unions – the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) hope to dispel the anger of educators and other school workers and avoid a rebellion against unsafe conditions in schools.

The board and ETA focused the discussion on the ability of administrators to reassign teachers to different classrooms in terms of its impact on academic achievement. Despite several months of negotiations overlapping with the spread of the Omicron variant, which has led to numerous hospitalizations and deaths of children in the United States, neither party has disputed the danger that in-person learning poses for students. and teachers.

The spread of COVID-19 among teachers has had a direct impact on the district. Euclid Middle School and Shoreview Elementary School had to switch to remote learning in early December due to the number of school employees calling in sick. A number of other school districts in northeast Ohio, including Akron Public Schools and Lakewood City Schools, reported large numbers of teachers, custodians and bus drivers are declared ill.

Several Euclid elementary and middle schools previously switched to remote learning in September due to a COVID-19-related bus driver shortage.

The developments in the Euclid School District are by no means unique. Since the start of the pandemic, there have been teacher strikes in Gahanna, Ohio; Scranton, Pennsylvania; and Chicago, Illinois. In all cases, union leaders have tried to prevent or end these strikes as quickly as possible and to block a national movement to demand the closure of unsafe schools. The AFT and the NEA, to which ETA is affiliated, have fully supported the dangerous reopening of schools.

The AFT and NEA’s support for the Biden administration’s reopening of schools stands in stark contrast to the stance of many rank-and-file teachers and students. In recent weeks, students have staged walkouts in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Texas and Utah. In virtually all cases, students are demanding stricter COVID-19 safety measures, including N95 masks and regular COVID-19 testing.

Any struggle by teachers to deal with the impact of the pandemic in schools requires stepping outside the narrow confines imposed by unions and the broadest unity between teachers, students and broader sections of the working class. . Euclid teachers who want to expand their fight should join the Grassroots Educator Safety Committee as the first step in creating a committee in their district.

Andrew B. Reiter