By Amy Ash Nixon, VTDigger.org
A bill that would prohibit Vermont public school teachers from striking passed the House Education Committee on an 8-3 vote Tuesday, March 17. Under the bill, teachers cannot strike and school boards cannot impose contracts.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Kurt Wright, R-Burlington, originally required mandatory binding arbitration in contract disputes, but that language was struck. The bill instead calls for mediation and fact-finding but bans strikes while the two sides work toward an agreement.
“I think we’ll be doing a good thing for Vermont,” Wright said just before the vote. “I think this is a bill that’s found a reasonable compromise, and I hope that the committee will support it.”
Reps. Tim Jerman, D Essex Junction; David Sharpe, D-Bristol; and Alice Miller, D-Shaftsbury, voted against.
“I think it changes the balance of negotiations in favor of school boardsand that it will work to suppress wages in the state,” said Sharpe, the committee chairman.
Under the bill, negotiations would occur 60 days sooner than they do now. If a contract cannot be reached in six months, the Vermont Labor Relations Board would hold a hearing and recommend a settlement to the parties. The Board can also seek to mediate a dispute. Every other state in New England prohibits teacher strikes.