Woburn teachers reach deal with city hours before strike stretches into second week

Woburn teachers strike in front of Woburn Memorial High School on January 30, 2023. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Woburn teachers strike in front of Woburn Memorial High School on January 30, 2023. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

After five days of closed schools and tense negotiations, the teachers’ strike in Woburn came to an end Sunday evening, narrowly averting a second week of closures.

Around 6 p.m. Sunday, the Woburn Teachers Association announced that it reached a deal with the city’s school committee and Mayor Scott Galvin. The deal includes double-digit pay increases for teachers and paraprofessionals and smaller class sizes in the fourth and fifth grades.

In a statement, union leaders said its members were “grateful to be able to return to our classes and be with our students on Monday.”

The contract was successfully ratified by the union’s full membership of roughly 550 educators later Sunday night — months after they rejected a prior agreement.

Under the contracts, teachers will receive a 13.5% raise over the next four years. Paraprofessionals will receive a 40% raise in the same period. Also known as “education support professionals,” paraprofessionals often work closely with students with disabilities and currently earn a starting salary of just $22,621 in the district.

Woburn union leaders expressed thanks to the community in a statement, saying its support “kept us strong and affirmed that we were doing the right thing.” Despite last week’s cold weather, union rallies were often attended by dozens of parents and students, who also supplied striking workers with food and coffee.

In a separate statement, Galvin and the Woburn School Committee touted the contract as fair and in “the best interests of the district and residents of Woburn.”

The strike comes with a cost for the union. They will pay $85,000 in fines to the state and $225,000 to the city as part of their return-to-work agreement. (Public-sector employees are forbidden from striking under state law, though the Massachusetts Teachers Association seeks to change that.)

Another union demand — the expansion of physical education in elementary grades to two days a week — made it into the contract, but only as a recommendation, not as a binding provision.

The agreement paved the way for Woburn schools to reopen on Monday morning to roughly 4,300 students. The Woburn teachers’ strike was the longest in recent memory; a teachers' strike making similar demands stretched to four days in Haverhill in October before resulting in a deal.

This article was originally published on February 05, 2023.


Headshot of Max Larkin

Max Larkin Reporter, Education
Max Larkin was an education reporter for WBUR.



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