Seattle teachers have approved a three-year labor contract between the union and its school district, officially ending a weeklong strike that included a series of marathon bargaining sessions and delayed the start of school for 53,000 students.
Rank-and-file teachers and support staff in the 5,000-member union, the Seattle Education Association, “overwhelmingly approved” the accord that consists of pay raises totaling 9.5 percent over the life of the contract, according to union spokesman Rich Wood.
If union members had voted to reject the agreement, the strike would have resumed.
The walkout began Sept. 9 in Washington state's largest school district and was suspended pending the outcome of Sunday's vote by the 5,000-member union. The sides had reached a tentative agreement last week, allowing the first day of school to begin Thursday.
The Seattle Times reported that of the estimated 3,000 members who attended the meeting, 83 percent of teachers, 87 percent of paraprofessionals and 96 percent of office professionals voted to approve the contract, according to the Seattle Education Association.
“We got many new things in our contract that will benefit students,” Shelly Hurley, a special education teacher and a member of the union bargaining team, said in a statement.
The contract gives teachers a 9.5 percent pay raise over three years, not including state cost-of-living adjustments, guaranteed 30-minute recesses for elementary students and more teacher input over standardized tests.
Teachers have been working without a contract since the end of August. They had initially asked for a 21 percent raise spread over three years, but they came down dramatically from that request. Educators had said that the high cost of living in a city with a booming population of well-paid tech workers was pricing them out.
The contract dispute marked a strategy shift by teachers nationwide to take on broader issues that promote the public interest, experts have said. The Seattle teachers union tapped into community protests over too much testing, not enough recess and concerns about racial disparity in discipline and student performance.
Six days of school will have to be rescheduled, which the district said could extend the school year or shorten midyear vacation breaks. Graduation dates for seniors will likely change as well.