Poultney Teachers of the Rutland Southwest Supervisory Union went on strike April 4. On April 2, union officials announced that teachers were filing an unfair labor practice grievance.
A federal mediator was unable to bring teachers and school district authorities together on work rules April 3. Salary and health care demands by teachers appeared to have been met.
Teachers allege that members of the school boards within RSWSU forced them to remove protest buttons. The supervisory union banned all teachers and staff from wearing buttons and displaying signs relating to their grievances.
RSWSU teachers have been working in excess of 640 days without a contract. According to Vermont-NEA, it is the longest such stretch without an agreement in the state’s history.
According to a Vermont-NEA news release this week, an order was posted that “effective immediately, all staff members are prohibited from displaying signs, wearing buttons, or having conversations with students relative to the on-going negotiations on school property.”
In addition, the release quoted Kaitlin Cioffi, a Poultney teacher and spokeswoman for teachers in the Poultney Teachers Association, the Rutland Southwest Education Association, and the Middletown Springs Education Association. “That the school boards would force us to give up our rights to wear buttons or display signs is based solely on unsubstantiated assertions that people were complaining. It is insulting to think that we initiate conversations with students about negotiations during school,” according to Cioffi
Teachers opened a strike office at 153 Main St. in Poultney April 2 in preparation for the duration of the labor action.