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Lessons from the Slammer

By Mary Ellen Flannery

It’s been 30 years since nearly 300 Bridgeport, Connecticut, teachers were handcuffed and hauled off to jail in school buses. Their crime? Striking for better wages, better working conditions, and better schools.
For two weeks, they lingered in a dilapidated former prisoner-of-war camp in the northern woods. But they prevailed – and not just with a fair contract.


On behalf of striking teachers across the state, the Connecticut Education Association won a binding arbitration law, one of just two in the country that requires school districts to abide by the decisions of impartial mediators, and something that the Rhode Island Education Association is pursuing now.
“If we hadn’t gone on strike, who knows where we would be today,” says Peter George, a former Bridgeport teacher who still remembers – and still has – the court papers that led to his jailing. “We would probably still be fighting for those rights.”