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Follow VPR's statehouse coverage, featuring Pete Hirschfeld and Bob Kinzel in our Statehouse Bureau in Montpelier.

In Surprise Reversal, House Maintains Status Quo To Allow Teacher Strikes

The House chamber of the Vermont Legislature
Angela Evancie
/
VPR/file
By a vote of 104 to 43 on Thursday, the House rejected a bill it had passed on Wednesday to support a special study to examine possible strike options for teachers.

In a stunning reversal, the House has rejected legislation concerning teacher strikes that it passed late Wednesday afternoon. The bill that originally passed by 14 votes was defeated by 61 votes when it came up for final approval.

In the end, a large majority of House members decided that doing nothing on this issue was the best course of action.

For two days, the debate over a bill to ban teacher strikes and the imposition of contracts by school board members consumed the House.

Late Wednesday, by a one-vote margin, the House rejected a plan to ban strikes in 2016 unless a special task force developed better alternatives.

The House then voted to support only a special study to examine possible strike options.

But when the House convened on Thursday, a new coalition emerged. It was comprised of members who felt the study didn't go far enough and those who thought it went too far.

And by a vote of 104 to 43, the House rejected a bill it had passed the day before.

Darren Allen, the communications director for the Vermont chapter of the National Education Association, says the teachers' union is very pleased that lawmakers did not interfere with the right to strike.

"Our perspective has long been that the status quo, the 45 years of collective bargaining that teachers have enjoyed, has worked. And it works the vast majority of times." - Darren Allen, Vermont Teachers Union communications director

"Our perspective has long been that the status quo, the 45 years of collective bargaining that teachers have enjoyed, has worked. And it works the vast majority of times,” Allen says.

Allen disputed the need to pass legislation banning strikes. He notes that Vermont has had only 26 strikes over the past 45 years, and he thinks strikes play an important role in contract negotiations both for teachers and school boards.

"Simply having those very rarely used tools is something that gets both sides at the table to negotiate contracts that both sides feel is fair,” he says.

"Vermont students, parents, teachers and school board officials will continue to suffer with the fear that their community will be the next to suffer the consequences of a teacher strike." - House Minority Leader Don Turner

House Minority leader Don Turner expressed great frustration that a majority of House members would allow teachers to strike in the future.

"Vermont students, parents, teachers and school board officials will continue to suffer with the fear that their community will be the next to suffer the consequences of a teacher strike,” Turner says.

Despite losing this debate, backers of the original legislation banning teacher strikes said they were pleased that the bill reached the House floor for a vote, because previous efforts never made it out of committee.