New Bedford Teachers Jailed During Illegal 1975 Teacher Strike
Legislation pending in Massachusetts would allow some public employees, including public school teachers, to strike. The proposal does not include police, fire, other public safety personnel.
According to Boston.com, "The legislation would allow unions to legally strike after six months of failed negotiations with their employers."
The Massachusetts Teachers Association says 12 states, including Vermont, give public school teachers the right to strike. The union has declared the legislation one of its priorities for the 2022-2023 legislative session.
When school teachers strike in violation of the law, they often draw the wrath of the courts, which are inclined to levy fines against teacher unions and even individual teachers.
Such was the case in New Bedford in 1968 and 1975.
When the New Bedford Educators Association, affiliated with both the MTA and the National Education Association, staged a month-long job action from September 8, 1975 to October 8, 1975, six teachers were sent to jail by the court until the union agreed to return to work.
The 1975 strike by the NBEA was the second strike in seven years. The union staged an eight-day job action in September 1968.
The 1968 teacher strike followed 22 months of unsuccessful negotiations over issues including compensation.
Class sizes loomed large in the 1968 strike. Teachers fought for a maximum class size of 30 students but won only a promise from the school committee that it would "strive" to achieve that goal.
Scheduling, longevity, and grievance procedures were among the other issues in 1968.
There are archived news reports from WHDH of the 1968 New Bedford teachers strike, including a silent clip that shows teachers involved in the walkout.
The 1975 teacher strike had a lot to do about compensation. In ending the walkout, the NBEA agreed to no pay increase in the first year of the new contract but received 12 percent in the second year in addition to assurances on pay differentials, preparation time, and a guarantee of adequate instructional supplies.
Class size loomed large for the NBEA again in 1975 as in 1968. The new contract allowed the union to seek arbitration if it felt the school committee was not trying hard enough to keep the class size below 30 students.
When the teacher strike of 1975 was over, members of the class of 1976, unhappy with the decision to extend the school year to make up for the lost classroom instruction time, staged a walkout of their own.
A compromise was reached by which the school day and not the school year was extended and students returned to their classrooms.