BEU fined $50,000 in contempt of court



Over 900 educators went on strike on Monday, May 16. This violates the injunction issued on Friday, May 13 by the Norfolk County Superior Court, which prohibits the BEU from striking.

A complaint for civil contempt, filed on Monday, May 16 with the Norfolk County Superior Court, requested the payment of fines beginning at $50,000 from the Brookline Educators Union (BEU). On May 17, the judge ruled in favor of this complaint.

The Commonwealth Employment Relations Board and the Brookline School Committee (BSC) filed this complaint in response to the BEU strike on the same day. This strike violates the temporary injunction that was issued by the Norfolk County Superior Court on Friday, May 13.

The injunction states that “the BEU… and the employees it represents shall immediately cease and desist from engaging or threatening to engage in, a strike or a work stoppage.”

The complaint was filed under the same case, Commonwealth Employment Relations Board vs. Brookline Educators Union et. al., as the initial injunction. The defendants are the BEU and its President, Jessica Wender-Shubow, the plaintiff is the Commonwealth Employment Relations Board and the BSC is a plaintiff-intervenor. A hearing on contempt was held at 3:40 p.m. on Monday.

The plaintiffs’ motion for the complaint suggests that for breaking the injunction’s terms, the BEU should be required to “pay a coercive fine, payable to the general fund of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts… in the amount of $50,000 per day… For each day after May 17, 2022 that members of the BEU engage in conduct in violation of the Court’s May 13, 2022 Order, Defendants shall pay the amount of the $25,000 fine, increased by an additional $10,000 per day.”

The plaintiffs justified the proposed $50,000 value in a memorandum filed under the case.

“When measuring the character and magnitude of the harm caused by a public school teachers’ strike, it is appropriate to consider the following factors: the blatant nature of the violation, the direct financial harm to the municipality, and the non-economic detriment to the public,” the memorandum states.

The memorandum states that the plaintiffs believe the fine must be significant enough to have the potential to end the BEU strike.

“Plaintiffs submit that the financial ability of the BEU to pay a prospective, coercive civil contempt fine must be measured by considering the total annual dues collected by the BEU, which the record indicates was $1,011,058.51 from September 1, 2020 through August 31, 2021, coupled with the BEU’s ability to raise other funds,” the memorandum reads.

The memorandum also highlights the strike’s impact on the Brookline community and the BEU’s lack of response to previous legal actions.

“The BEU and its members … have indicated that the strike is not limited in its duration. Neither an Interim Order of the Board nor the Preliminary Injunction Order of this Court has sufficiently deterred the illegal strike. It may be fairly concluded that a coercive fine of some magnitude need be imposed to halt the strike,” the memorandum reads.

On Tuesday May 17, the judge’s ruling was published on public record. The judge ruled that the BEU is fined $50,000 in contempt of the court.

“I find the defendants in contempt of this Court’s preliminary injunction of May 13,2022. I…find the character and magnitude of the harm to be substantial in view of the direct and daily impact to the over 7,000 public school students who are entitled to a public education. The sanctions here are intended to be coercive in nature and to compel those participants in this illegal strike to cease and desist immediately and to comply with all the provisions of the preliminary injunction,” the judge wrote in the endorsement of the complaint.

The Sagamore has reached out to representatives of the BSC and BEU for comment.

This story was updated on Tuesday, May 17 at 12pm with changing information.

This is a developing story. Please check back here for more information.