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Cox Mediates Contract Debate In Burlington Teachers Strike


Archibald Cox '34, Williston Professor of Law, this week began mediating the contract disputes that led to a strike of about 700 Burlington teachers against the Burlington School Committee. Teachers' salaries and working conditions are the major issues.

The striking teachers, most of whom belong to the Burlington Educators Association (BEA), went on strike September 20. They charged that the school committee had failed to bargain in good faith. The strike forced two schools to close.

Cox was appointed Tuesday by the State Labor Relations Commission. Negotiations began Wednesday and continued throughout the week.

Cox said yesterday that the first two sessions were "useful meetings" but declined to reveal any results. "Our aim is to arrive at a settlement to provide for opening schools Monday," he said.

No New Proposals

The wife of one school committee member said last night, however, that the meetings had not yet produced a new proposal for settling the strike issues. "The meetings have been only fact-finding so far," she said.

Paul Good, negotiator for the school committee, disclosed yesterday that the other negotiators include representatives of the BEA, the school committee, and attorneys for each side.

Four BEA officers were jailed Wednesday on charges of violating a court order of September 5 that had barred their union from striking against the Burlington schools.

The jailed teachers had asked that negotiations be moved to the Middlesex County Jail so that they could participate. Cox said that their request was refused.

Earlier this week, George Shea, lawyer for the BEA, had asked the Middlesex Probate Court to postpone the four teachers' sentences, pending an appeal to the state Supreme Judicial Court and also pending the outcome of the negotiations which Cox is conducting. This request was also denied.

Shea filed his appeal yesterday with the Supreme Judicial Court on grounds that the Probate Court has no jurisdiction over equity cases.

The strike has affected all ten Burlington schools. During the past week, parents and substitute teachers have staffed the elementary schools, but the high and junior high schools have remained closed.

The disagreement between teachers and the school committee began last November when teachers asked for a "cost of living" raise, a spokesman for the BEA said yesterday.

The spokesman explained that no satisfactory agreement had been reached when schools opened in September, and teachers returned to work without contracts. "This strike can be explained by the principles of collective bargaining," she said.

"We will be on strike until negotiations are completed and we have a contract," a Burlington teacher said last night.

The BEA will hold a candlelight vigil on Burlington Common tomorrow night in support of its four officers. The ceremony is open to all Massachusetts teachers associations.

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