Updated: 5:03 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2011 | Posted: 5:02 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2011

Teacher Strikes In Washington Are Illegal -- So Why Do They Happen?

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TACOMA, Washington —

As Tacoma teachers mull whether to strike Wednesday, KIRO 7 Reporter Deborah Horne has been looking into the simple fact that it's illegal for teachers to strike in the state of Washington.

The issue last came up in Kent in 2009. The Kent School District had sought an injunction against striking teachers and in a decision, a judge wrote that, "the law is clear that teachers do not have a right to strike."

The judge in that case ordered the teachers back to work and threatened to impose hefty fines on the union and individual teachers if they did not return to classrooms.

Michael Reitz with the Freedom Foundation said school districts are reluctant to sue striking teachers, though, because of the trail of bitterness it can leave behind.

"That's one of the flaws in the law," he said. "Ultimately, there is no penalty for going on strike. The only penalty that might come up is if a teacher decided to defy a court order sending them back to the classroom, there would be contempt of court penalties."

That did happen in Marysville in 2003, after the state's longest teacher strike ever -- a whopping 49 days.

Tacoma teachers haven't gone on strike since 1978.

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