Reminder: Teacher strikes are illegal in Washington

Several local teachers unions around the state are planning one-day walkouts as a protest. Neither the House nor Senate budgets are sufficient, they say, so to grab some attention for the issue these teachers will not show up for work.

Let’s be clear: Teacher strikes are illegal in Washington. They are not allowed under state law. The same goes for all public employees at the state and local level.

The reason doesn’t matter. They’re not legal as a protest. They’re not legal for collective bargaining purposes. They’re not legal under any circumstances.

Of course, there’s a little hiccup here. While strikes are illegal under state law, the law does not specify any penalties. Judges can impose penalties, but that only occurs after an injunction is sought and issued to require the employees to return to work, and then the employees defy that injunction.

Which means the unions know that they can get away with a one-day strike, with no price to pay. And they want it to be as disruptive as possible. As Liv Finne of the Washington Policy Center pointed out in 2011, it is an intentional union strategy to hold these strikes mid-week, when they will inconvenience parents and the community the most.

Breaking a law with no penalties is still breaking the law. That’s not the example our public school teachers should set.
-Rob McKenna

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Rob McKenna
Rob served two terms as Washington’s Attorney General, from 2005 to 2013. He successfully argued three cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and negotiated three of the largest consumer financial protection settlements in national history, all involving mortgage lending and servicing. He is a recognized leader in the development of consumer protections on the internet, in data protection and privacy regulation.