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Teachers vote to strike today

DATE OF EVENT: Monday, March 18, 1974 (strike began)

DATE PUBLISHED: Monday, March 18, 1974, in The Kansas City Times

Editor’s note: Kansas City School District teachers struck for the first time in 1974, protesting pay and working conditions. The strike created more problems for a district already struggling with desegregation, as angry patrons and taxpayers left for suburban districts or transferred their children to private schools. The strike lasted six weeks. A seven-week strike followed in 1977.

Teachers in the Kansas City School District voted overwhelmingly yesterday in favor of a strike — the first full-fledged teachers’ strike in the district’s history — and are scheduled to set up pickets this morning.

Norman Hudson, president of the Kansas City Federation of Teachers, said pickets would be out at district schools between 5 and 6 a.m. The strike resolution was scheduled to go into effect at one minute after midnight.

School district officials said yesterday all schools would be open this morning. …

At a press conference after the strike vote, Dr. Robert L. Medcalf, district superintendent, indicated he will take legal action today in an attempt to end the strike. That action likely would be a request for a temporary restraining order against the striking teachers. …

An estimated 1,600 of the district’s 3,200 teachers, paraprofessionals, counselors and librarians attended the strike vote meeting at the Hotel Muehlebach. Hudson said about 30 teachers opposed the strike.

There are 98 schools in the district with 62,000 students.

Leroy Kent, president of the Central Labor Council, told the teachers: “Your cause is just and we’re 100 per cent behind you.” Loyd R. Holman, business representative for Service School Employees Local No. 12, said members of his union, including custodians, maintenance and cafeteria workers, will not cross teacher picket lines.

Two years ago about half the district’s teachers honored picket lines set up by the service employees when that union struck the district.

David Selden, national president of the American Federation of Teachers, told the meeting: … “We have never lost a strike in a major city, and we didn’t come here to lose this one.”…

Medcalf told administrators: “We all deplore the conditions that have created this strike. The employees’ frustrations with rising inflation coupled with a very real financial crisis in this school district makes for no quick or easy answers. We cannot, however, condone a strike.”

At a press conference after the vote Hudson said the teachers will remain on strike until a satisfactory package is offered by the district. …

He said the union submitted 62 contract items to the district and of these 44 remain unresolved. He listed these unresolved items as key matters in the decision to strike:

A three-year phase-in of reduced class sizes.

Use of art, music and physical education teachers at each elementary school.

Fewer reorganizations of classrooms. He said shuffling of teachers and pupils had been catastrophic in many elementary schools this year.

An end to lock-step promotion of students.

Teacher representation on school district screening committees.

An improved teacher grievance procedure.

Extra pay for teachers for extra duties. …

He said he would like to see teachers’ salaries here in the range of most major U.S. cities, which would mean an $8,000 base for beginning teachers with a bachelor’s degree. The base currently is $7,274.