UPDATE: North Pocono Strike On Hold

MOSCOW — A judge has issued a temporary injunction stopping the strike in the North Pocono School District.

The district went to court claiming the strike is illegal.

Teachers began picketing around 7 a.m. outside North Pocono Middle and Intermediate Schools. Teachers started picketing at each of the district’s schools Thursday.

Not long after they started, the dozens of picketing North Pocono teachers were called together on the intermediate school lawn, and then sent home.

It happened after union officials were handed an injunction signed by a Lackawanna County judge. So, teachers have to stop striking at least until next week when the union and administrators meet in a courtroom.

“It’s our belief that at the April 23 hearing that this injunction will be resolved,” said John Holland of Pennsylvania State Education Association. “Then we’ll be back out on strike, unless there’s an agreement by then.”

North Pocono teachers rejected the school board’s latest contract offer on Monday.

That offer included salary increases and a health care plan that would cost teachers 99 cents each paycheck.

For the few hours they were actually picketing drivers passing by the school in Moscow honked in support and in dissent.

“I’m a union man myself but what I do feel is that, in today’s times and today’s economy, I think teachers should just buck up and go back to work,” said Ed Anselm of Moscow.

Union representative John Holland says few districts in Lackawanna County have their teachers contribute to health care. ┬áHe says that’s one of the reasons why North Pocono teachers aren’t backing down.

“The board told the teachers clearly that it’s a philosophical issue, that they want to make them pay because they want to make them pay. But basically what the school board is doing is they’re trying to bully the teachers.”

The school board and administrators argued the teachers started their strike illegally. The judge agreed and issued that temporary injunction. Board member Bill Burke says students will head back to school now but admits the contract fight is far from over.

“We’re one of the highest-taxed districts in northeastern Pennsylvania, and we’ve got to make sure that what we’re giving to our people, our taxpayers, is a fair shake for their buck. And when it comes to health care, oh, my gosh, everybody is paying for health care today,” said Burke.

“When the public says ‘how come you have good health care?’ ‘You don’t have to pay a lot toward your health care.’ ‘I have to pay toward my health care,’ well, the question they should be asking is ‘why am I paying so much toward my health care?’ ‘Why don’t I have health care?’ or ‘why do I have sub-standard health care?’ That’s the question that should be asked,” said Holland.

Union officials had said they’re not sure how long this strike will last but the state department of education only allows them to strike long enough to push the last day of school back to June 15.

A hearing to make the temporary injunction permanent is set for Tuesday.