The Burlington Educators Association (BEA) educators came out in support of the Woburn Teachers Association (WTA) and Woburn’s students on the Woburn Common. Despite the cold temperatures, they were part of an incredible turnout of Woburn students and their families, as well as members of a dozen of communities nearby including Melrose, Wilmington, Somerville, Belmont, Boston, Tewksbury, Lexington, and Winchester also joined the picket line in solidarity.
The WTA decided to strike the evening of Friday, Jan. 27 following an impasse in negotiations with the Woburn School Committee and Mayor Scott Galvin. Woburn Public Schools have been closed ever since. Bargaining has gone on nearly every day since.
It has been reiterated in the course of the standoff that it is illegal for public employees in Massachusetts to strike and the state has filed an injunction against the WTA and issued fines of $40,000 a day starting Thursday, with an increase of $5,000 each day the strike continues.
Woburn teachers are asking for an increase in wages for Education Support Professionals (ESP). EPSs are paraprofessionals who support small groups, special education programs and have critical support roles for teachers and students. There is a very real possibility of Woburn’s ESPs leaving for neighboring communities that are paying as much as 60% more. There is also a push to increase the number of physical education classes which are currently once a week. This would mean more student social and physical interaction as well as teamwork and collaboration, especially at the elementary level. It also means hiring more phys ed teachers.
The WTA strongly feels the ESPs and students are worth fighting through the obvious legal repercussions that can come into place by continuing to strike.
BEA President Sean Musselman expressed support for Woburn educators and higher living wages.
“The BEA, like unions all across the state, are standing in solidarity with the WTA, recognizing the needs for our ESPs to have living wages. The need for our students to get what they need is critical to thriving schools and to a thriving community,” said Musselman. “We recognize that the fight in Woburn is no different than fights and needs that are taking place all cross the commonwealth and in our own communities.”
Musselman commented when asked when a resolution might come.
“I have no idea. Personally I expected the two sides to come to a conclusion over the weekend. It surprised myself and many that it’s even gone on this long,” Musselman said.
Many Woburn teachers live in Burlington and vice-versa, teaching and living across the communities.
“It’s important for us, in times like this, to come together and support each other. Our communities, while separated by borders, are deeply interconnected,” said Musselman.