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State Rules Andover Teachers Participated In Illegal Strike

Andover teachers pick up their laptops and lawn chairs to go home after working outside in front of Andover High School on Aug. 31. (Cristela Guerra/WBUR)
Andover teachers pick up their laptops and lawn chairs to go home after working outside in front of Andover High School on Aug. 31. (Cristela Guerra/WBUR)

Andover teachers engaged in an illegal strike when they refused to enter school buildings last week, the state Department of Labor Relation has ruled.

State law prohibits public employees from striking, staging work slowdowns or refusing to report for duty.

"[W]e hold that the phrase 'report to duty' ... means reporting not only when but where the employer has ordered its employees to report," the ruling stated. "In this case, that means inside the school buildings, including inside classrooms."

However, the board also ruled that the matter is moot, as it did not find evidence the union was planning another strike.

Nearly half of the teachers sat outside the school buildings during the first day of  professional development last Monday, working on laptops. The union called it a "workplace safety action," refusing to enter the buildings because of poor ventilation, which it said is unsafe. There's growing evidence that the coronavirus can linger in the air, and the state has said masks and ventilation are key to limiting the spread of the virus.

The Baker administration and the state's three largest teachers unions agreed to allow for districts to push the first day of school back by 10 days in order to have more professional development.

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