Detroit teachers go on strike, want better contract but could face fines

Monday, August 28th 2006, 2:12 pm
By: News On 6

DETROIT (AP) _ Teachers frustrated by failed efforts to reach a contract agreement with the city's public school district went on strike Monday and said they were prepared to stand their ground for as long as it takes.

The Detroit Federation of Teachers overwhelmingly rejected a two-year contract proposal by the district on Sunday.

The proposal included a 5.5 percent wage reduction and copays for health care benefits of up to 20 percent. Only two teachers out of nearly 6,000 voted to accept the district's proposal, the union said. The teachers are seeking a pay increase.

Many teachers carried signs and protested outside their schools on Monday, the day they were scheduled to report to work to prepare for the start of the school year.

``It's not about money in our pockets, it's about teaching these kids,'' said English teacher Audrey Gates. ``They had a long time to negotiate this.''

Classes are scheduled to start Sept. 5 for about 130,000 students in the district. Negotiations were to resume Monday afternoon.

District spokesman Lekan Oguntoyinbo called the strike illegal and said it is not a constructive way to handle the situation. State law restricts public school employees from striking, and teachers could be fined, Oguntoyinbo said.

He said about 7 percent of teachers showed up for work Monday.

The district says it needs $105 million in concessions from its unions, including $88 million from teachers, to balance its budget. Teachers say they have given up enough already.