Teachers in Haverhill and Malden are on strike Monday after negotiators in both communities failed to reach an agreement after a weekend of intense labor negotiations.
Haverhill teachers officially declared a strike Sunday night.
In Malden, the school district canceled school, it said, “due to the threat of a strike by members of the teachers’ union.”
The Malden Education Association, which represents teachers, posted a caption on Twitter that said “Malden educators are on strike.”
Teachers said they were ready to continue talking Sunday night, but district negotiators up and left.
The Malden School Board’s bargaining team has walked away from the bargaining table. Our team and our silent representatives were ready to continue bargaining. The School Board’s bargaining team decided to stand up and refused to continue bargaining. pic.twitter.com/EMqYALesKB
— Malden to Ed. Assoc. (@MaldenEduAssoc) October 17, 2022
Unions in both districts threatened to strike last week, demanding better pay, support policies and other urgent reforms. County officials came to the table over the weekend, but did not take the threat of an illegal strike lightly.
Reacting to the Haverhill decision to strike, city and state officials said Sunday they would ask a judge to order teachers back to work.
“The School Committee and Mass State Labor Board are asking a Salem Superior Court judge to issue an injunction against the union for its illegal strike that would have a devastating effect on students and families in Haverhill,” the Haverhill Negotiations statement said. The subcommittee — representing the school board — was released after 5 p.m. Sunday.
State laws prohibit public employees from striking and may risk fines or retaliation from their employer for striking.
While Haverhill schools will be closed to students on Monday, the statement said, all employees are expected to come to work. Malden issued a similar statement, saying all employees, union and otherwise, are expected to report to work.
According to Haverhill Education Association Vice President Barry Davis, the teams “came close” to a compromise on Sunday. Negotiations will continue on Monday at 8 am.
“The big (tipping point) right now is still compensation,” Davis said. “And the reason we’re stuck on compensation is that they refuse to talk to us about anything else until compensation is resolved.”
Haverhill’s union noted that teachers in the city are paid about $10,000 less than the state average and pointed the finger at the city’s mayor, James Fiorentini. Fiorentini raised the questions in a statement from the negotiating committee.
Negotiations also became messy in the middle of the day, Davis said, when city representatives walked out of negotiations to hold a news conference — locking union representatives out of the event.
In Malden, Superintendent Ligia Noriega-Murphy said the weekend talks seemed “incredibly productive.”
Noriega-Murphy said the city’s bargaining team reached “a significant number of agreements and a very competitive salary and benefits offer without precedent.”
The list of demands from both unions includes adjustments to class size, workload, safety standards, evaluation and preparation time.
Hundreds of teachers and community supporters attended union rallies in Haverhill and Malden on Saturday.
“In Malden and Haverhill, our members are fighting for the common good,” the Massachusetts Teachers Association said in a statement. “When school boards fail to establish fair contracts, they disrespect not only educators, but the students and communities that depend on our public schools.”
A release from the Haverhill Negotiating Subcommittee informed parents that the Haverhill YMCA and Boys & Girls Club will be open during the school day for children enrolled in their programs.
Free student meals will also be available from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at several locations listed on the Haverhill Public Schools website.
Haverhill Superintendent Margaret Marotta said in a statement that the district recognizes the “burden” this will create for many parents and is taking steps to ease the pressure.
— Todd Prussman contributed reporting