Pittsburgh teachers 'overwhelmingly' authorize union leadership to strike

Teachers in the Pittsburgh Public Schools district have authorized their union leadership to strike, the union announced Monday.

By law, teachers must give the district 48 hours’ notice that they intend to strike. If the 3,000 teachers go on strike, it would affect about 25,000 children.

"For me it's unfortunate, but I know it's part of the process," said Dr. Anthony Hamlet, superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools. "I'm sure we are going to reach an agreement soon."

The Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers said almost 95 percent of members authorized its executive board to call a strike vote.

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"On Friday, we’re meeting with the district,” union president Nina Esposito-Visgitis told Channel 11. “We hope this sends a clear message to the district that our members are behind us for a fair and reasonable contract and we’re going to keep fighting for that. Because we don’t want a work stoppage, either.”

Teachers and staff have been working without a contract since June 30. It's been 40 years since Pittsburgh Public School teachers went on strike.

The union board meets Thursday night, where it will discuss a strike vote. All-day negotiations with Pittsburgh Public Schools are scheduled for Friday.

Union members are calling for salary increases for all teachers based on years of experience and educational credentials instead of raises being linked to annual test scores.

They also want better pay for early childhood and early intervention teachers and therapists, who they say are paid less than their K-12 counterparts – and a raise for athletic coaches as well.

Members have also taken issue with potential changes to their healthcare and overcrowded district classrooms.

The district released a statement on negotiations last month: "The District recognizes that the possibility of a strike represents a significant disruption for our students and their families. We continue to work diligently with PFT leadership toward a resolution."

Mayor Bill Peduto has strongly both sides to come to a resolution, and has offered to sit at the bargaining table with them.

“It's the last thing that anybody wants to see,” he said last month. “I will and I've asked for meetings with the superintendent and the president of the teachers to see if there's anything to do that we can help to mediate this."

"We already have plans in place, we've been talking about this for a while, because I always like to prepare," Hamlet said.