Could the recent decision by the School Reform Commission to reopen union contracts to give the district $75 million in concessions result in the first union strike since 1980?
Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, the district's largest union, was tight-lipped about the possibility, but said that "any and every legal option is on the table."
Union leader Michael Lodise, who represents school police, was more forthcoming.
"If they make the contracts null and void, everyone has the right to strike," he said, adding that he stands with the PFT in refusing to renegotiate with the district.
Lodise added that the district's move - which gives its five unions until June 30 to make concessions "necessary to achieve the needed economies" or risk having their contracts canceled - is a no-win for unions, but doesn't leave the district in a better position.
"They'll leave themselves wide open," he said of the effect a strike would have. Not to mention, he added, it would keep both sides locked in long, drawn-out court battles.
Summer break is just a few weeks away, and a strike now would impact the 18 days of summer school, but little else.
Members of Local 634, the union representing cafeteria workers, ratified their contracts in April and don't expect to be included in the district's plan, said union president Doris Smith.
Meanwhile, Robert McGrogan, head of the Commonwealth Association of School Administrators, the principals' union, said he's willing to cooperate.
What remains is the district's threat, with the SRC's blessing, to impose new conditions. Here are answers to a few key questions over how things could play out.
Q: If the district moves to cancel union contracts, could teachers and other employees strike?
A: Absolutely. Although a provision in PFT's contract forbids teachers to do so, if the contract is no longer valid, the union would have the option of forming a picket line.
The likelihood of that happening is unknown. The last teachers walkout was in 1980, when then-Mayor Bill Green broke a contract, sparking a 50-day strike.
Q: Will raises and benefits be affected?
A. Quite possibly. The district could withhold contractual raises and health-care benefits.
Q: If the contract is canceled during the summer, who would be affected?
A: Employees who are considered 12-month employees, including principals and assistant principals, could be affected.