As has been widely reported, 7,000 Detroit teachers marched on the picket line recently, delaying the start of the school year and leaving the fifteenth-largest school district in the nation shuttered for over two weeks. Union and district negotiations had stalled when the union demanded a 5 percent pay increase from the financially strapped district.
After an all-night session and interventions from the Mayor, the Governor, and the NAACP (among others), negotiators finally agreed to a 3-year contract on September 13th. Teachers ended up conceding to a pay freeze in the first year, a 1 percent increase in the second year and another 2.5 percent in the third year. In turn, they gained the right to an additional three sick days if they contract lice or ringworm from their students. Oh well,you win some, you louse some!
Detroit's troubles seem pretty serious, and they appear to have a lot to do with poor management. Last year, teachers actually had to lend the district money out of their paychecks so that principals could get their first pay increase in years.
In Pennsylvania this fall, over 100 districts began the year with contract talks unsettled. This disarray led to strikes in three of its districts, helping it maintain its status as the U.S.'s top state for teacher strikes. This dubious honor has prompted some Pennsylvania lawmakers to push for a no-strike law.
The Keystone State may want to ponder the effectiveness of Michigan's no-strike law before putting too much effort into a similar one. With a no-strike law, all union leaders have to do to avoid being put in jail for ordering the strike is to 1) not call what they are proposing a "strike"; and 2) not publicly tell their members to not go to work. Then teachers can do what Detroit's did and stage a "walk-out," and accomplish the same thing by word of mouth. Hence the official record of events: 7,000 teachers in Detroit spontaneously and coincidentally skipped out on work, and then went back to their jobs, all without the wise counsel of their union. Clever is as clever does.