Thursday, September 9, 2010
Wednesday morning was supposed to be the first day of school for up to 4,800 students and 330 teachers in the Ferndale school district. Instead, teachers were pounding the pavement while students expressed frustration and disgust at the strike.
Tucked in the upper northwest corner of Washington state a few miles from the Canadian border, Ferndale is a pleasant community long associated with dairy farming and oil refining, not educational labor troubles.
The issues in dispute in the negotiations included six minutes per day of planning time for elementary teachers, 10 new early release days for teacher planning and more health care plan options for teachers.
But there was confusion as to whether some of the issues were in dispute at all. Communication efforts from both the district and the union made it difficult to discern the status of negotiations or what the relative positions of the two sides were.
In addition, some teachers on the picket line claimed that an attorney for the Washington Education Association had advised them that they had a legal right to strike. When advised that Washington state law did not give them a protected right to strike, they expressed surprise.