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Scranton Federation of Teachers

Scranton Teachers Strike Enters Third Week

Teachers have not had a contract or raises in five years

Brian Young's picture
Nov 16, 2021

Since November 3, schools in Scranton Pennsylvania have been closed due to a strike by the city’s teachers. The decision to strike came after the teachers were forced to work without a contract for the last four years.

Over that time the teachers have seen serious cuts, including losing 100 union positions within the district through cuts to PreK education, to the arts, to music and to libraries. Throughout the four years, the teachers offered numerous proposals to help their teachers while keeping budget constraints in mind. Yet even when the district received $60 million in extra funding from the federal government thanks to the recent stimulus packages, the district still refused to budge on bringing back teachers or raising salaries. Instead, the district is pushing for larger class sizes, a worse health plan, and longer school days.

Leading up to the strike, the teachers have worked with local community leaders and parents to let them know that is the last resort and that teachers do not want to strike. The teachers, who authorized the strike back in the spring semester, said that they wanted to make it clear that their agenda was to get back into the classroom. “We wanted everyone to know we wanted to be back in schools,” Kathleen Beckwith, a middle school English and science teacher and 24-year veteran of the Scranton Public Schools said in an interview with Labor Notes. “The district has an agenda. Our agenda is to get back to school.”

Community members and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten joined the teachers on the picket line recently to show the community’s support for the strike.

Teachers in Scranton are some of the lowest paid in the state. This has only been exacerbated by the city’s school district being under the state’s emergency financial management system since 2017. While teachers have not received raises during that time, district administrators have gotten 25% raises and all of them are making six figures. The starting salary for teachers is just $38,000 a year. According to the union, the starting salary in surrounding districts tops $50,000.

“Some of us in this room are making an awful lot of money, and others are barely able to pay their bills,” said former Scranton Mayor Jimmy Connors at a school board meeting the night before the strike started.

The district is also trying to force a new healthcare plan onto the teachers. While the district says it will save them $8 million, the union says that they are opposed to it since none of the local hospitals will negotiate with the provider.

This is the district’s second strike in the past 7 years, with the last one occurring in 2015. Scranton teachers saw their health insurance immediately cut off by the district when they went on strike, forcing teachers to delay or pay out of pocket for important medical treatments like chemotherapy.

Although the state has not stepped in to end the strike, they may have to if the strike does not end before the end of November since keeping schools closed any longer would mean that the district could not provide the required 180 days of education for their students.  

If you want to help the Scranton Teachers, the AFT has established a Strike Fund, which you can donate to by clicking here.

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