Following Woburn teacher’s first day on strike, a Massachusetts Superior Court judge granted the School Committee and mayor’s request for an injunction ordering the union to return to work Tuesday — which the teachers immediately defied.
“The (Woburn Teachers Association) … shall immediately cease and desist from engaging or threatening to engage in a strike or work stoppage, slow down or other withholding of services and shall immediately return to their assigned work locations on January 31, 2023,” wrote Maureen Mulligan, Associate Justice of the Superior Court, in a ruling issued late Monday night.
Yet teachers and school staff returned to the picket lines Tuesday morning as contract negotiations resumed.
Under state law, it is illegal for public employees in Massachusetts to go on strike. For each day on strike following the order, the union will face hefty fines.
The Woburn strike follows several similar strikes over the past several months, including teachers unions Malden, Haverhill and Brookline. The longest strike — Haverhill’s week-long protest in October — cost the local union $110,000 and the MTA $50,000 in fines, in addition to the hundreds of thousands paid to the city for damages.
The judge’s injunction follows a previous cease and desist ruling from the Commonwealth Employment Relations Board.
The WTA argued in court the order to disavow the strike constituted “prior restraint,” an overstep of the First Amendment. The judge ruled against the WTA despite the case, saying the Committee had “further shown that the students in the district will suffer harm if they cannot attend school as scheduled.”
The WTA said progress was made during negotiations Monday and it is hopeful a resolution can be reached Tuesday.
The union, comprised of 550 teachers and school staff, has been without a contract since August. The WTA has listed top priorities including a “living wage” for paraprofessionals — who currently receive a starting salary of about $22,000 — elementary school physical education classes twice a week and smaller class sizes.