Teacher strikes and the toothless law

Now that the Bellevue teachers’ strike is over, it’s time to ask and answer a simple question: Are teachers’ strikes acceptable?

Now that the Bellevue teachers’ strike is over, it’s time to ask and answer a simple question: Are teachers’ strikes acceptable?

Put aside the pros and cons of the issues in the Bellevue strike (though I am happy that Bellevue teachers are getting a raise). Let’s stay focused on tactics. I don’t think teachers’ strikes are acceptable because teachers’ strikes are illegal.

For some bizarre reason there are people who regard that as a controversial position. I don’t know why because it’s not even a close call.

Attorney General Rob McKenna, a supporter of the Bellevue public schools and a former president of the Bellevue Schools Foundation has patiently, thoroughly explained this numerous times to legislators and members of the news media, including me.

The Washington Education Association, the teachers’ union, acknowledges that while strikes by public employees are illegal, the law doesn’t specify that “public employees” includes public school teachers. If a first-year law student made that argument in class he’d be laughed at.

It’s like saying that it’s illegal for vehicles to drive 90 mph in a 55 zone but it doesn’t apply to you because it doesn’t specify your car.

But laws against speeding carry penalties. Laws against public employees strikes do not.

That’s the real problem. The law is toothless.

You can add teeth by going to court and getting a judge to issue an injunction ordering the teachers back to work. If they defy it, the judge can hit the union hard with fines. That is why teachers’ unions rarely ignore an injunction. It links the strike to financial consequences.

But no one in Bellevue went to court. The school board waited more than a week before holding a meeting to see if they should even seek an injunction. When they did, the union, being well organized, made sure that most people there opposed the injunction. The school board opted not to, saying that it would be divisive and raise tensions.

And this is where I start scratching my head. An injunction is divisive? Wasn’t the strike itself divisive?

From now on, when the union strikes in Bellevue or anywhere else, from Kirkland to Kent, the school board should be in court within an hour seeking an injunction.

Yes, the union will threaten to retaliate when school board elections are held, but the voters will respect strong leaders who face down pressure and uphold the rule of law over those who think the law is theirs to ignore at will.

If strikes by public employees weren’t illegal, that would be an entirely different matter. But they are and school boards have an obligation not only to follow the law but to see to it that students and teachers do the same. Thousands of parents had their schedules turned upside down for two weeks for no good reason. It shouldn’t happen again.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@redmond-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.redmond-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in Opinion

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
Why should the threat to Taiwan concern us in WA? | Brunell

Unfortunately, what happens in Taiwan doesn’t just stay in Taiwan — it… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Election 2021: Closer look at King County races | Roegner

The race for Mayor of Seattle will dominate the regional media, but… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Questions surround vaccine exemptions for state workers | Roegner

With about 4,800 state employees in 24 agencies requesting vaccine exemptions, which… Continue reading

Dr. Jayendrina Singha Ray serves as Faculty of English at Highline College. Her research interests include postcolonial studies, spatial literary studies, British literature, and rhetoric and composition. Prior to teaching in the U.S., she worked as an editor with Routledge and taught English at colleges in India.
What the Afghan wants to say: Arezo’s journey to America | Guest column

In our little Zoom room, I hear my interviewee break into sobs.… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Can a Texas-style abortion law happen in Washington? | Roegner

If politicians really want to anger women voters, the easiest way is… Continue reading

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
Reasons to ban Gov. Jay Inslee’s natural gas ban | Brunell

Column: Switching from natural gas to electricity is complicated and will impact everyone.

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He recently retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
Vaccinations improve our health and employment numbers | Brunell

It is not surprising that COVID-19, which ravaged the world, was disastrous… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Firefighters vs. the governor’s vaccine mandate | Roegner

We all thought we were in this fight with the coronavirus together,… Continue reading

Providence employees look at anti-vaccine mandate protesters as they cross the street outside of Providence Regional Medical Center Everett on Aug. 18, 2021. Olivia Vanni/Sound Publishing
Editorial: A message to the unvaccinated and unmasked

We know you’re frustrated with mandates and advice, but consider our frustrations and, yes, our anger.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Back to the classroom during abnormal times | Roegner

If it didn’t feel so normal, we might forget about the coronavirus… Continue reading

Robert Toomey, CFA/CFP, is Vice President of Research for S. R. Schill & Associates on Mercer Island.
What’s up with the real estate market? | Guest column

As we all know, the residential real estate market and prices have… Continue reading

9/11 Memorial in Cashmere, Washington. Photo courtesy of Greg Asimakoupoulos
Twenty years after tragedy brought us together | Guest column

Recently, I was reflecting on where I was and what I was… Continue reading