Teachers strike lasted 6 days

By Mike Dougherty

Nearly 15 years ago, more than 850 Rochester public school teachers left the classrooms in the city’s first teachers strike, marching the picket lines in subzero temperatures until an agreement was reached six days later.

Rochester’s teachers went on strike Dec. 4, 1991, over pay and subcontracting of pre-school educators.

The teachers said the subcontracting threatened their job security and opened the door for the school district’s management to replace union teachers with non-union workers. School district leaders said they needed to be able to subcontract, otherwise it would infringe on their management rights and limit their future ability to make management and hiring decisions.


On Day 2 of the strike, nearly 750 of the striking teachers marched around the block of the Edison Building, the site where the district’s administration offices are housed. Little trouble was reported on picket lines as drivers were instructed how to approach the lines and wait until a space cleared to enter a parking lot.

The tentative settlement was reached in the early-morning hours of Dec. 10 after a state mediator shuttled between rooms at the Rochester Education Association’s offices in northwest Rochester, which are now long gone in the wake of the U.S. 52 expansion project. The negoatiating site was chosen so teachers would not have to cross a picket line. Pickets were at each of the district’s 29 sites, which included 23 schools.

Eventually, negotiators settled for a 9 percent salary and benefits increase over two years and agreed not to displace union teachers through subcontracting.

The strike disrupted the city as parents scrambled to find places for their children who could not attend school, as teachers and their families worried about the duration of the strike and its impact on their livelihoods and as school officials worried about the impact on the district both financially and in long-term morale of staff and the community.

In all, 14,620 students were out of school for five class days. Teachers missed four.

Some athletic contests or practices continued, while others did not, depending on whether the coach planned to honor the picket line.

The district expanded its school-age child-care program and continued community education classes, after a one-day cancellation.

Ever find yourself asking the question, "Whatever happened to …?" Flashback is dedicated to answering those questions. Send your questions about the past to with Flashback in the subject line, or call City Editor Randi Kallas at 285-7729.

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