Working under an expired contract, a month into a challenging school year, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers is testing the waters of a potential “work to rule” action that would see city teachers work only during contracted hours.
That means that lesson planning, grading, reaching out to families and all the other tasks educators complete before and after school, at night and on weekends would change drastically.
“This should be seen as a refusal to do ‘extras,’ ” PFT President Jerry Jordan said in an email sent to members and obtained by The Inquirer. Should the action be undertaken, teachers would need to complete all such work during the single prep period allotted during the school day.
The work-to-rule action is not a lock; members have until Thursday to weigh in.
But Jordan’s exploration of the idea makes it clear that a settlement is not imminent and that the PFT is seeking to exert pressure on the Philadelphia School District.
A spokesperson for the district did not respond to a request for comment.
The PFT’s contract expired at the end of August. Jordan is seeking a one-year extension with a wage increase of roughly 2%, the amount the city agreed to give two of its largest unions earlier this year. Philadelphia teachers are currently paid between $45,360 and $91,852.
Jordan has previously said that the district was trying to “shake down” the PFT — which represents 13,000 educators, secretaries, counselors, nurses, and other school workers — by tying raises to an endorsement of the district’s reopening plan.
The school system’s 120,000 students now attend school only virtually, but Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. has signaled he wants children to begin returning to buildings at the end of November.
Jordan, in a statement, said the final issue on the table is money.
“Because the district refused to negotiate anything on wages until we had discussed reopening protocol, in a move that was entirely unwarranted, we have not yet been able to reach agreement on wages,” the PFT president said.
Jordan has said he will not accept any deal that does not include a raise and pay for years of experience and education.
He said that the two sides have “made great strides regarding safety protocol for when the district reopens buildings," but that because the financial package is still up in the air, he decided to discuss next steps with members.
Jordan said he will meet with members before deciding on any job action, but his hope is that “we can wrap this up before any job action is necessary. I know that we can, but it’s a matter of the political will to make it so."