Vermont Bill Taking Away Teacher Strikes Facing Bumpy Path


A controversial bill that tried to take away from teachers the option to strike has been voted down by a House committee in Vermont.

The House General, Housing and Military Affairs Committee denied the bill in a 5-3 vote along party lines, arguing that it would not result in a better outcome and that it was not currently ready for passage.

The bill had passed through the House Education Committee in an 8-3 vote and is set to go to the floor of the House later this week, writes April Burbank for The Burlington Free Press.

The three Republican members who had voted for the bill said they did so in order to respect the work of the House Education Committee.

Included in the bill was legislation that would impose a 1-cent tax penalty on communities where teacher contract disputes extended over a one year period, the removal of a teacher's right to strike, and allowing school boards to impose a contract if the two sides reach an impasse. In addition, teachers would not be allowed to receive retroactive pay increases and benefits past the one year deadline unless specifically built into the contract.

"We felt that the suggestions that were made to us did not bring the parties to finality, and that was a big concern, said Rep. Helen Head, D-South Burlington. "I think the question for me now is do we still agree with that decision, or is there something about H.76 as passed by the education committee that leads people to think differently?"

Spokesman Darren Allen said the Vermont-NEA teachers union is not willing to change the collective bargaining process or the right to strike, "given the political climate."

"I do understand that strikes can be very difficult on communities," said House General, Housing and Military Affairs Committee chair Helen Head (D-South Burlington). Vermont's most recent teacher strike last fall was in her school district.

Head went on to say that she and others in the Burlington area considered the strike option to be an effective tool to reach an agreement.

Last fall Governor Peter Shumlin said teacher strikes should be banned. However, he has not yet said whether or not he supports the bill, although it does appear to fit into his image of a perfect balance. "I support the right teachers' strike bill," Shumlin said. "If one side gives up the ability to strike, the other side should give up the ability to impose a contract."

The bill does not allow school boards to impose contracts.

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