Freedom Foundation
Washington Teachers Need a Reminder: Strikes Are Illegal

Washington Teachers Need a Reminder: Strikes Are Illegal

// Originally posted August 29, 2013 //

It was reported Monday that teachers in South Kitsap have authorized a strike if their demands are not met by the start of school on September 1st. Teachers in the Seattle school district have also rejected their contract offer and may authorize a strike the day before school starts. 

However, strikes by school teachers, or any public employees, are illegal under state law:

  • The law which authorizes collective bargaining for teachers specifically provides that, “Nothing contained in this chapter shall permit or grant any public employee the right to strike or refuse to perform his or her official duties” (RCW 41.56.120).
  • In 2006, the State Attorney General’s Office issued an opinion on the legality of public employee strikes, concluding that: “In Washington, state and local public employees do not have a legally protected right to strike.  No such right existed at common law, and none has been granted by statute.”
  • The website for the State Office of Financial Management bluntly notes that state employees “are not permitted or granted the right to strike or refuse to perform their official duties.”

Furthermore, Washington Courts have a long history of declaring teacher strikes illegal and ordering educators to return to work, in some cases fining teachers who refused.

  • 2011: Tacoma teachers strike. Pierce County Superior Court Judge Bryan Chuschcoff ordered teachers to return to work and threatened to fine them if they failed to comply.
  • 2009: Kent teachers strike. King County Superior Court Judge Andrea Darvas issued an injunction to end the strike. The strike continued until Darvas threatened to begin fining teachers and union officials.
  • 2003: Marysville teachers strike. Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Linda Krese orders the strike to end, noting that “Public employee strikes are illegal under the common law of Washington. The [Marysville Education Association] strike violates the prohibition on public-employee strikes and is an illegal strike.”
  • 2002: Issaquah teachers strike. King County Superior Court Judge Joan Dubuque declares the strike illegal and threatens to fine teachers who continue to strike.
  • Prior to 2002, state courts issued 24 injunctions against striking teachers.

Instead of using children’s education as leverage in contract negotiations, teachers across the state should comply with the law and fulfill their obligations to their students and state taxpayers.