PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers has voted to authorize a strike.
In a release, the PFT said 94 percent of the union, 2,309 to 144, voted in favor of the authorization.
Teachers have been working without a contract since June.
The PFT executive board will meet on Thursday at 4:30 p.m. to discuss whether they will go on strike or not. If the board does vote in favor of a strike, they are required to give the school district 48-hours notice. The earliest teachers could go on strike would be Tuesday, Feb. 20.
PFT President Nina Esposito-Visgitis said, “We tried to put things in the negotiations that are members want, things like class size the district would not even talk about. Our early childhood teachers, who make far less than our other teachers. We want our scale to be competitive to other districts around here.”
KDKA’s Lynne Hayes-Freeland Reports:
The last time Pittsburgh Public Schools went on strike was back in 1975.
The district and the PFT will have an all-day negotiations session Friday.
Mayor Bill Peduto is not happy with the process.
“The image of Pittsburgh would be set back … while we’re in competition with Amazon. Because two people can’t work something out is no excuse,” he said. “Get in, get it done, and let’s move on.”
School board president Dr. Regina Holley said the district did write a letter in support of the city’s Amazon bid, but cautions that has nothing to do with the ongoing negotiations between the PFT and the school district.
“That’s secondary to what we need for our children right now,” Holley said. “In terms of putting Amazon in this, in the light of this particular negotiation, no, we did not think about any of that. We’re only thinking about what is in the best interest of the children.”
KDKA’s Lisa Washington Reports:
Peduto has offered to help the school board and the PFT work through their contract stand-off, but the district turned down his offer for help.
“There is not a mayor in America that doesn’t get involved in potential labor strikes within their city. Whether it was the musicians with the Symphony, whether it was potentially with the Post-Gazette, I’m in discussions constantly,” Peduto said, “so for the school to say it’s none of your business, get out of here, is not an appropriate response.”
“It’s not that we’re trying to keep the mayor out,” Holley said. “He is an important part of the city, of course. He manages the city, but we have a superintendent that needs to manage this part of the school district.”
But Esposito-Visgitis said, “I would like for the mayor and superintendent to work together more. I appreciate him wanting to talk to us. He didn’t say he wanted to get involved in negotiations, he wanted to have a conversation, I applaud him for that.”
When the two sides could be back at the table isn’t clear, but the district says it is confident with the negotiating team it’s put in place.