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Ana Maria Cornea / Gavel Media

New Financial Agreement Ends Woburn Teachers' Strike

On Monday, February 6, the Woburn school district’s 4,200 students returned to their classrooms after a five-day-long teachers' strike kept schools in the district closed. The Woburn Teachers Association (WTA) approved the strike on January 27 after failed contract negotiations with Woburn Mayor Scott Galvin and the city’s school committee. 

Union staff, which includes approximately 550 school employees, including teachers, paraprofessionals, and nurses, have been working without a contract since August. 

A tentative financial agreement between Mayor Galvin, the school committee, and the WTA was announced Sunday, February 5; Per the WTA press release, the contract package "creates a more competitive wage," which will provide an immediate 3.5 percent pay increase and raise teacher salaries by 13.75 percent over the next four years. 

However, as teacher strikes are illegal in Massachusetts, the teachers' union must now pay the city $225,000 in fines and fees, as well as donate $20,000 to a local charity. The fines account for administrative costs associated with the strike, such as police details and school lunches. 

Additionally, the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) incurred legal fees during the strike as Superior Court Judge Camille Sarrouf ordered the MTA to adhere to the Department of Labor Relations (DLR) order that demanded the immediate return of the teachers. The preliminary injunction instructed the MTA to "immediately cease and desist from inducing, encouraging, or condoning any strike." 

The MTA was subsequently ordered to pay $40,000; the terms of the injunction included a $5,000 additional fine for each day the teachers did not comply with the order to return to work. 

Finally, teachers and students must make up for missed instructional days caused by the strike. 

In the last few years, teachers have adapted to unexpected and unprecedented conditions, often in overcrowded and underfunded schools. Calls for a higher teacher salary come amid a nationwide teacher shortage following pandemic-induced classroom conditions. Strikes like this one in Woburn are just one way that teachers are fighting for recognition and fair treatment within their ever-challenging occupation.