Striking for much more than pay

September 8, 2015

On September 3, some 2,000 Seattle educators voted unanimously to authorize a strike as early as the first day of classes on Wednesday, September 9, if negotiations with the school district fail to produce a fair contract that meets their demands. Jesse Hagopian, a teacher at Garfield High School in Seattle and editor of the recent book More than a Score: The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing, explains why the strike vote by members of the Seattle Education Association was so resounding and introduces a segment on the looming teachers' walkout at, in a post at his I Am An Educator blog.

ON THURSDAY, September 3, I joined thousands of Seattle educators in a packed downtown concert hall for a general membership meeting to decide whether or not to go on strike.

After all the updates and debate, the meeting chair called for a voice vote on the matter at hand. An awesome cry of "aye" reverberated throughout the hall. Yet that thunderous roar of rejection for disrespect, for the testocracy and for corporate education reform was belittled by the breathtaking silence that followed when the "no" vote was called for. In that blissful moment of peace, not a single educator in Seattle made a sound--and then pandemonium. An incredible jubilation resounded through the hall as it sunk in that we had just voted unanimously to strike for the schools that our students deserve.

It didn't have to come to this, but the Seattle Public Schools waited until the last days of summer to respond to any of the proposals put forward by educators, or to put forward any serious proposals of their own. When the district finally responded to the union, they rejected every one of the union's innovative initiatives, and only offered teachers the opportunity to work 30 minutes a day for no extra pay.

Seattle teachers on the picket line during a one-day strike in May 2015
Seattle teachers on the picket line during a one-day strike in May 2015 (Seattle Education Association)

Jaisal Noor of The Real News Network, interviewed me about the issues at stake in this contract battle--including the union's demand for a 6 percent raise for each of the three years of the contract, a race and equity team in every school, expanded recess for elementary school students, an end to using test scores in teacher evaluations, caseload caps for counselors and school psychologists, and more.

As I told Jaisal Noor:

The issues that we're taking up are much more than pay. Teachers and educational support staff deserve a living wage in a city where the costs are skyrocketing, where teachers can no longer afford to live in the city where they teach. So we're definitely fighting for fair compensation. [However, we're] fighting for an incredible list of educational reforms that will truly improve the lives of children in Seattle...I'm really proud of the work that my social justice educator colleagues have done over the years to help move the union in a direction that takes up the political demands that will help us achieve the contract that will improve public education.

Visit for video of the interview about the Seattle educators' strike.

First published at I Am an Educator.

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