Seattle-area teachers’ unions resist back-to-school orders absent COVID-19 safety assurances

Photo credit: Zigic

Seattle school workers have accused the city school district of unfair labor practices for ordering hundreds of educators back to the classroom amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Represented by the Seattle Education Association union, the school employees filed several complaints against Seattle Public Schools for designating about 700 educators as “essential” workers needed for in-person teaching, as part of a plan to speed up the resumption of in-person classes for special education students.

The educators and their union took issue with the move because they had not yet reached an agreement on the reopening of school buildings following a shift to remote instruction during the coronavirus pandemic.

In late February, the union filed three complaints with Washington’s Public Employment Relations Commission accusing the district of interfering with employees’ collective bargaining rights, according to the Seattle Times, which noted that each complaint represented one of three main categories of employees the union represents: teachers, paraeducators and school-building office staffers.

The union argued that the order forces educators back to school before a mutual agreement on coronavirus safety protocols has been reached. 

“SEA’s bargaining is critical to make sure all possible protections are in place to keep our students and educators safe,” Jennifer Matter, president of the Seattle Education Association, said in a March 1 statement. “Putting additional students, some of them medically fragile, in classrooms when the district isn’t even providing adequate protection for those few students and staff in-person now, is risky, irresponsible, and reckless.”

The Renton Education Association union made a similar argument earlier this week, when Washington school district kindergarten teachers it represents voted against returning to in-class teaching, according to The News & Observer.

The union claimed that the school district failed to address safety concerns raised by school nurses, special education teachers and high-risk staff members.


Emery Reddy helps workers. Call us if you have an L&I, unfair pay practices, workers’ comp, injury, or other employment law claim. You won’t get better advice.

« | »