WEA proposes binding interest arbitration, end to teacher strikes

proposed legislation The Washington Education Association has proposed legislation to make teacher strikes illegal in Washington state and to mandate binding interest arbitration when negotiations reach an impasse.
   The bill proposes an arbitration system for K-12 certificated school employees that is similar to one that has been used effectively for Washington firefighters, police officers, and other public employees for more than 20 years.
   Binding interest arbitration is administered by a state agency and relies on a neutral third party, usually a trained, certified arbitrator, who examines disputed issues based on clear criteria and standard guidelines before handing down a binding decision.
   "No one likes strikes. They disrupt the learning environment for students and the life of a community. When teachers resort to such drastic actions, it is because no other alternative has existed to resolve serious differences that affect students and staff," WEA President C.T. Purdom said at a news conference. "Binding interest arbitration will provide educators with a reasonable, objective system for resolving important issues fairly and without the disruption of a strike."
   Purdom noted that strikes have become increasingly rare in recent years as local education associations and school districts have moved toward collaborative bargaining and joint decision making.
   Between 1975 and 1980, there were 32 local school strikes in Washington; from 1990 to 1995, there were only 13.
   "Replacing the option to strike with binding interest arbitration is a natural step in this evolution," Purdom said. "We hope parents, school board members, administrators and other community members across the state will support us in this effort."
   WEA represents 65,000 classroom teachers and other certificated school employees, education support personnel, higher education faculty, teacher education students, and retired educators.