Wellesley School Committee seeks to head off possible teacher strike

The Wellesley School Committee, getting more than whiff that the the teachers’ union might strike Monday, filed a petition Thursday with the state’s Department of Labor Relations to prevent such an action. The School Committee held an executive session (aka, behind closed doors session) “to discuss potential litigation related to the anticipated Wellesley Educators Association strike.”

Word is that the Wellesley Educators Association plans to vote Friday night to authorize a group to make a strike decision. Strikes by most public employees are illegal in the state, though a handful of school unions have gone on strike this year anyway in an effort to force school districts’ hands. The Massachusetts Teachers Association is pushing for legislation to allow its members to strike, not that that will help the WEA this time around.

The two sides in Wellesley have pumped out statements and updates during this Teacher Appreciation Week about how much they each have conceded or offered during negotiations. WEA members have been working without a contract since last July, and the two sides have been working with a state-assigned mediator in recent weeks to try to come to terms.

The WEA issued a press release on Tuesday in which the union stated the two sides “are very close to reaching a contract agreement that will end this protracted labor dispute. It is down to this: respecting paraeducators and parents….”

Among the items that the WEA is still pushing for is annualized pay for paraeducators to avoid them get puny paychecks on some weeks, examples of which they shared on social media. The WEA also seeks more movement on paid parental leave.

The same day that the WEA issued its statement, the School Committee held its usual public meeting, though adjusted its agenda to focus on negotiation updates at the start. Two public comment segments were also included, giving members of the public their chance to urge a settlement.

In its statement issued on Thursday regarding its Department of Labor Relations filing, the School Committee said in part: “Going into this past Monday’s negotiating session, the School Committee’s bargaining team was eager to present what we believed was a comprehensive offer that met and in many ways exceeded the WEA’s desired compensation for paraprofessionals and teaching assistants. Unfortunately, the union leadership has not accepted this offer and instead has focused its efforts on planning for an illegal strike.”

The School Committee emphasized that its filing does not preclude continued negotiations.