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Woburn schools to remain closed today amid teachers strike

Teachers on strike gathered in front of Woburn Memorial High School Monday.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Woburn schools will remain closed for a second day Tuesday as a teachers strike continues, despite a court injunction and a cease-and-desist order from the Commonwealth Employment Relations Board, the Woburn School Committee and Mayor Scott Galvin said late Monday.

Hundreds of Woburn educators picketed Monday after failed contract negotiations over the weekend, prompting the closure of all 10 campuses for the district’s nearly 4,300 students.

Members of the Woburn Teachers Association said they are fighting for pay increases for paraprofessionals, or teacher aides; smaller class sizes; and twice-a-week physical education classes for elementary school students.

Talks were scheduled to resume Monday but fell apart after a disagreement over whether the union could allow so-called silent bargainers in the room while others negotiated with city and School Committee representatives. Those union members listen and observe the sessions, provide feedback to their bargaining team, and meet with their team to caucus.

Meanwhile on Monday, the city was granted an injunction in Middlesex Superior Court ordering an end to the strike and instructing teachers to return to the classroom, according to a copy of the ruling provided by Galvin’s office.


The union did not immediately return a message late Monday night asking if it would comply with the order.

Speaking to reporters Monday night, Galvin said the strike is illegal and denies students of their constitutional right to an education.

“It’s really frustrating when [the union’s] lawyers are representing that it’s just like a snow day,” Galvin said, according to video provided by his office. “It’s not like a snow day. It’s children being deprived of their education ... and we’re not at all happy about it and I don’t know how anyone in the city could be happy about it.”

Negotiations are set to resume Tuesday morning at the Joyce Middle School, a spokesperson for Galvin’s office said.


Barbara Locke, president of the Woburn Teachers Association, said Galvin, School Committee member Ellen Crowley, and others came into the room Monday morning and said they would not meet with them.

Paraprofessional Roseli Matthews blew a vuvuzela during the Woburn Public Schools teachers strike in Woburn on Monday.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

“Crowley and Gavin’s reckless refusal to negotiate threatens to keep Woburn schools closed,” Locke said. “Prolonging this crisis for Woburn families is unacceptable.”

Galvin denied that the city and school district have not participated in the bargaining.

The state office of Labor and Workforce Development said the decision is left to the negotiating parties whether to allow so-called “silent representatives” to attend bargaining sessions. However, “the discretion to use silent representatives is not absolute and may be limited by the parties’ ground rules for negotiations or if the representatives are disruptive or otherwise impede bargaining,” an official said.

Galvin and the School Committee said in a statement Monday night that “progress has been made” but no agreement has been reached. They said they seek to reach a deal that is fair for students, staff, and Woburn residents.

“The committee is steadfast in its commitment to conducting good-faith negotiations with the members of the WTA directly via its appointed collective bargaining team,” the statement said.

School district leaders said the sides reached a tentative agreement in October, but union members did not ratify that deal.

The Commonwealth Employment Relations Board issued a ruling Friday evening that mandated the union cease strike-related activities and resume negotiations.

Massachusetts teachers are barred from striking under state law, though recent teacher strikes, or at least the threats of them, have largely proved effective, as contract agreements have followed shortly after each one.


The Massachusetts Teachers Association is pushing for state legislation that would allow some public sector workers, including educators, to go on strike.

Contract talks in Woburn have been ongoing for more than a year between the School Committee and the union, which represents about 500 teachers, nurses, teacher aides, and others.

The aides have a salary that starts at $22,000 and the union is asking for the base to increase to $27,000.

“We didn’t want to be here, but we knew that we needed some leverage and some strength because we are continually being told that we are replaceable, and we don’t feel valued or respected,” Locke said. “We were really pushing for our paraprofessionals first, and they [city officials] walked out the door.”

Educators chanted outside of Woburn Memorial High School Monday, waving big orange signs reading, “Woburn educators on strike!” and other homemade signs that said, “Educators deserve a fair contract today!”

Educators in Woburn were not alone in their demands during Monday’s strike as students, parents, and other community members joined them in support.

Passing cars honked in solidarity, prompting educators to cheer in response. Crowds then moved to the Daniel L. Joyce Middle School, where negotiations were supposed to take place, before making their way to Woburn Common Monday afternoon.

Jackie Buttaro and her stepdaughter Riley Stanley, a fourth-grade student at Malcolm White Elementary School, stood outside at Woburn Common and held signs that read “2020 taught us we need teachers” and “2020 taught us teachers are not replaceable.”


“I want them to know that they’re loved, they’re valued, they’re not replaceable, despite what our jerk of a mayor says,” Buttaro said. “I don’t want them to ever feel like that.”

CeCe Allen, a senior at Woburn Memorial High School, was among dozens of students who also rallied alongside their teachers. She said the strike felt like a learning moment for them rather than a disruption to their education.

“They’re teaching us something actively,” Allen said. “They’re not just telling us that doing what you think is right is good, they’re showing us that. This is the biggest learning experience we could have, and I’m grateful to have it.”

This report includes reporting from prior Globe stories. Correspondent Nick Stoico contributed reporting.

Adria Watson can be reached at Follow her @adriarwatson.