Teachers and support staff around Maine push for legislation that will give them a greater voice in their profession, including the right to strike if and when it’s needed
On Wednesday, April 17, Maine educators rallied at the State House to support having a greater voice in their work and greater ability to advocate their students. Teachers, support staff, retired educators, parents and community members were in Augusta, on what the Maine Education Association called #RedforEd Day at the Maine State House to ask lawmakers to support LD 900, a bill that expands the rights of public employees under the Maine labor laws. The bill would allow public employees, including educators, to strike, if and when they feel they need to in order to make their voices heard to help their students.
“What we are witnessing is not a moment but a movement of and by educators who are advocating for the public schools our students deserve. Educators are empowered and have found their voice in advocating for their students and their profession. Educators don’t want to strike. We want to be able to sit down and have productive, collaborative conversations with school boards and administrators, but sometimes things don’t work out that way. Educators are the experts in the classroom and deserve to have an equal seat at the table when key decisions that impact their students are made. The ability to strike, if and when it’s needed, is one tool to help ensure the expert voice of the educator is heard,” said Grace Leavitt, president of the Maine Education Association.
Over the past year, more than 100,000 educators have participated in strikes, walkouts, rallies, and other actions have happened in Alabama, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, North Carolina, Denver, Los Angeles, and elsewhere. Educators are advocating for everything from the need for nurses and counselors to fair pay that will attract and retain great teachers and education support professionals.
A recent poll in Maine shows 61% of Mainers believe public school teachers in our state should have the right to strike if they are unable to make improvements for their students or come to a contract agreement through normal means. Additionally, data from the National Education Association shows 78% of public school parents would support teachers in their own communities taking action for higher pay, because they know how dedicated they are to their children.
LD 900 would allow educators to take collective action to protect and improve their schools, without the threat of getting fired. The bill also has a measure in place to prevent a strike, allowing either the employee organization or public employer to call for emergency bargaining within 3 days prior to the intended start of the strike.
“This push to increase educator voice is just one more part of the #RedforEd movement that has seen educators, students, parents, and community members coming together in support of our students and schools,” added Leavitt.
Educators are also asking lawmakers to support legislation that would allow for the ability to negotiate over issues deemed educational policy, things like teacher planning and prep period, and legislation that would make an arbitrator’s decision on salary and health insurance binding.