Washington Governor Intervenes in Teachers Strike

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, frustrated that a teachers strike has forced the cancellation of seven days of school in Tacoma, called both sides to her office Wednesday in hopes of brokering a deal.

Negotiators were unable to reach an agreement Wednesday afternoon, so they traveled to Olympia to continue discussions under Gregoire's watch, said Karina Shagren, a spokeswoman for the governor.

Gregoire has no direct control of schools in Washington, but she has been pressuring both sides for a deal.

"She is incredibly anxious," Shagren said. "She wants to get those kids back in school."

Wednesday was the seventh day classes have been canceled in the state's third-largest school district. The two sides have been disputing issues including pay and class size, but the major sticking point is how the district handles teacher transfers. The district wants to consider some factors in addition to seniority.

Gregoire said in a statement that she wants district and union negotiators to stay in her office "until their differences are reconciled and the school doors reopen."

The Tacoma Education Association, the union for 1,900 teachers, is defying a court order for them to return to work. Pierce County Superior Court Judge Bryan Chushcoff has said he's considering giving the district the option of replacing teachers who are on the picket line, and the next court hearing is set for Tuesday.

State and local public employees, including teachers, have no legally protected right to strike, according to a 2006 state attorney general's opinion. But that opinion also noted state law lacks specific penalties for striking public employees.