Board rules Andover teachers participated in illegal strike

  • The Massachusetts state flag AP PHOTO/STEVEN SENNE

State House News Service
Published: 9/9/2020 12:25:42 PM
Modified: 9/9/2020 12:25:32 PM

A state labor board ruled Tuesday night that Andover teachers had taken part in an illegal strike last week when they refused to enter school buildings and classrooms for professional development, ordering the local union to notify its members of their duty to return to school.

The Andover School Committee last Tuesday filed a complaint after the Andover Education Association and its members refused to take part in special preparations related to COVID-19 safety measures for the reopening of school.

The union argued that teachers should have been allowed to participate in the training outside of school buildings and classrooms.

The Commonwealth Employment Relations Board, in a 35-page ruling, found the union and its members engaged in an unlawful strike on Aug. 31, rejecting the union’s argument that it should be allowed to “dictate where they perform their work.”

The board, chaired by Marjorie Wittner, ordered the union and its employees to cease any further strikes or work stoppages or slowdowns, and told union leaders to stop encouraging work stoppages or the withholding of services and to inform its members of their obligation to work.

“In an era where many employees can perform some or all of their work remotely as long as they have a computer and reliable internet connection, and to the extent this is not already self-evident, we hold that the phrase ‘report to duty’ in Section 19 of the Law means reporting not only when but where the employer has ordered its employees to report,” the board concluded.

“In this case, that means inside the school buildings, including inside classrooms,” the ruling said.

Many teachers and their local unions around the state have been hesitant about returning to the classroom as some schools have opted for fully in-person or hybrid models of teaching to start the new school year. The state shortened the required duration of the school year by 10 days to give districts extra time for professional development to become familiar with new curricula and COVID-19 safety rules for teachers, students and staff.


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