As one teachers' strike ended, another escalated.
Public schools in Haverhill will close for a third consecutive day Wednesday, as the district's 900-plus teachers continue to picket for higher pay and smaller class sizes.
The strike goes on at considerable legal risk.
Under a preliminary injunction issued Tuesday afternoon by a Superior Court judge, it could cost the union tens of thousands of a day in fines. (Public-sector workers are prohibited from striking under state law.)
Lawyers for the Haverhill School Committee and the state’s labor relations board asked the court to set fines of up to $50,000 a day as a deterrent, given the harm caused by closing schools, the “blatantly illegal nature of the strike,” and the union’s reported $450,000 cash on hand.
As of Tuesday evening, Judge Joseph Lang had not set explicit penalties for ongoing strike activity, though he did require union officials to "notify the Department of Labor Relations ... of the steps taken to comply with" his order by Wednesday morning.
Judge Lang's injunction will also apply to the Massachusetts Teachers Association, which represents the Haverhill Education Association among its 400 local unions.
An attorney for the MTA had contested the group's inclusion as a defendant, pointing to little evidence that they played any directive role in the strike — but Lang was not convinced.
Among those supporting the strike in Haverhill Tuesday was Deb Gesualdo, president of the Malden Education Association. That union concluded its own strike with an agreement with the city Monday night.
Gesualdo acknowledged that both strikes were against the law. But she noted that Malden seemed mostly to support the action, judging by honking drivers and neighbors bringing doughnuts to picketing teachers.
In part because of the legal risk, Gesualdo said, “parents and caregivers knew that we were taking this action, not on a whim, [but] to create a better learning environment for our students."
Details of the compromise in Malden have not been published, since it still needs approval from both the city’s school committee and union membership.
But heading into this week's contentious negotiations, both unions were focused on raising salaries, shrinking class sizes, securing more time for planning and preparation, and recruiting and retaining diverse educators.