FUMO URGES CONTINUED TALKS ON TEACHER CONTRACT
HARRISBURG, September 27, 2000 -- Both sides should continue negotiations over a new contract for the
Philadelphia teachers, rather than take any action that would result in a strike
at this time, state Senator Vincent J. Fumo (D-Philadelphia) said today.
"Cool heads must prevail. The city and the teachers union must both work
hard to arrive at an agreement that is in the best interest of the school
children of Philadelphia," he said. "It
would be a major mistake to precipitate a strike at this time."
Fumo spoke prior to Mayor Street's scheduled address to the city this
evening on the status of talks with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. The
senator said he hoped that the "dramatic" action promised by the mayor's staff did not mean that the city would
unilaterally impose changes in working conditions that are currently the subject
The teachers, whose contract has expired,
have promised not to strike so long as the city does not alter the working
conditions without an agreement.
"Everything I have learned from people on both sides indicates that they
are not very far apart," Fumo said. "It
would only hurt the children of the city to cause a strike when an agreement is
"Even if one agrees that the proposed changes
in work rules are a good idea, it is in everyone's long-term interest to implement them through the collective bargaining
process. And it is in everyone's interest, especially the school children's,
for the teachers to remain in the classroom and continue negotiating," Fumo said.
A state law, Act 46 of 1998, gives the city the power to impose changes in
the teachers' working
conditions when they cannot reach a contract agreement. The same law gives
the state the authority to take over the district if the teachers strike.
Gov. Ridge sought and gained passage of the law with the help of
Republican legislators, led by Sen. Hank Salvatore of Philadelphia in the
Senate. Fumo opposed the measure.
Fumo believes that since Harrisburg helped
create this potential crisis by passing legislation that has allowed the
city to act in a way that could precipitate a strike, the governor and
those who supported him must keep the children of Philadelphia in the
classroom rather than in the streets.
"The Governor and his operatives in the General Assembly have been very
willing to threaten the
Philadelphia School District with draconian action, including a takeover.
Of course, when it comes to actually stepping in and doing something to
improve education, they have been totally unwilling to act. If Act 46 now
results in a strike, the responsibility for the education of the children
in this city will rest solely on the shoulders of Gov. Ridge and his
allies in the Legislature,"
Fumo pointed out that when the current issues are resolved, everyone in
the city -- the mayor, the
teachers, administrators, parents, legislators, and others -- will have to join forces and work together to obtain more resources
from the State Capital.
"So now, while talks go on, we should not do anything that will drive us
further apart," he
Copyright 2000 Sen. Vincent J. Fumo