Aug 25, 2022 - News

Looking back at the 1975 Columbus teachers strike

A news headline from 1975 reading, "Columbus teachers strike."
From the Jan. 6, 1975 edition of the Newark Advocate, via Newspapers.com.

The union and school board were able to find a resolution quicker than the last time Columbus teachers went on strike in 1975.

Flashback: With "Young Frankenstein" in theaters and "Kung Fu Fighting" inescapable on the airwaves, both sides remained "hopelessly deadlocked" in negotiating a new teacher contract, AP reported.

Amid rampant inflation reaching as high as 12%, the district claimed it couldn't afford teachers' demands for higher paychecks.

By the numbers: First-year teachers made $8,070 per year back then, with the average teacher earning $11,500.

  • That would be $45,900 and $65,400 in today's money, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

State of play: The union voted overwhelmingly on Jan. 5, 1975, to strike.

  • Substitutes, administrators and volunteers kept schools open, though only around one-third of students attended class.

Yes, but: State law at the time banned work stoppages by public employees, so the school district took strikers to court.

  • A local judge deemed it illegal and required teachers to return to class, thus ending the seven-day strike.
  • His order protected them from workplace retaliation.

The intrigue: Picketing began the same day Democrats took control of both Ohio Statehouse chambers.

  • A Cleveland lawmaker quickly introduced a bill to protect public employees' bargaining rights, but Democrats didn't have time to take action while the strike was ongoing because Republican Gov. Jim Rhodes took office a week later.

In the end, both sides negotiated a pay increase for teachers a month after the strike ended, and labor peace continued for the next 47 years.

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