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In South Burlington Teacher Strike, It's All About The Timing

Taylor Dobbs
South Burlington teachers walked the picket line Tuesday morning in front of South Burlington High School.

In the first day of a teacher's strike in the South Burlington School District, more than 100 teachers walked the picket line in front of South Burlington High School, calling on the school board to come to the negotiating table sooner rather than later.

With more than 2,000 students out of school, both sides say they want the strike to end as soon as possible, but teachers say the strike was the only way to make the board move quickly in the negotiations.

Teacher raises and contributions to health care premiums were sticking points in the most recent exchange of proposals between the school board and teachers. But more than those issues, both sides are blaming the others on matters of timing.

Eric Stone, the chief negotiator for the teachers, said Tuesday that the board leadership had arbitrarily delayed the process, despite its assertions that it was simply being diligent.

“That board still waited four days to get us a counter-proposal,” he said. “That’s not because they couldn’t get it done. They just waited. And that four days used up valuable time that we could have been negotiating a contract. We’ve been negotiating for 10 months. If we thought more time was what we needed, then that’s what we would have done, but that’s not what happened. Ten months of negotiations did not produce a successor agreement. We need a successor agreement, and that’s why this is happening.”

The union underscored the allegations by filing an unfair labor practice charge Tuesday with the Vermont Labor Relations Board. The filing says the school board circumvented the bargaining process by trying to negotiate directly with members and by using stalling tactics to delay reaching a settlement.

But school board clerk Martin LaLonde called the strike a “completely manufactured” crisis created by the teachers, who he said could have easily moved their strike deadline to accommodate the board’s first available meeting time.

That first available meeting is Thursday, when the two sides are likely to resume negotiations with the goal of getting both teachers and students back in the classroom.

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