What Has Led to Teacher Strikes in 3 Mass. Communities This School Year?

A teacher strike in Woburn, Massachusetts, has caused schools to close this week; there were also strikes in Malden and Haverhill in October

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The teacher strike taking place in Woburn is the third since last fall in Massachusetts.

Educators in Malden and Haverhill walked off the job in October, demanding better pay and smaller classes.

"There's a lot of struggles that came to light since the COVID pandemic," said Deb Gesualdo, president of the Malden Education Association. "It's not all about wages. For us in Malden, it was about safety. It was about class sizes and caseloads, and we're seeing that here in Woburn, too."

Negotiations resumed Friday as schools in Woburn will be closed for a fifth straight day.

Wages are at the center of the stalemate in Woburn, as well as the other contract disputes, driven in part by teacher shortages.

"We want to make sure that we have competitive wages for teachers. We want to retain the staff that we have here," said Christy Nickerson of the Woburn Teachers Association.

Nickerson dismisses suggestions of collusion between teachers in the cities and towns that have seen strikes.

"Is there a wave? Yes. But I think it's because we need to look at what the bigger problem is," she said.

Public employees are barred from striking in Massachusetts, and teacher unions face large fines if they walk off the job.

The Massachusetts Teachers Association has filed legislation to lift the prohibition under certain conditions.

"People are starting to realize that this 100-year-old system of denying public-sector employees the right to strike is not helping," said Max Page, president of the MTA.

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