Portland teachers authorize strike
PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The members of the Portland Association of Teachers voted Wednesday night to authorize a strike.
The strike was authorized through a voice vote.
They didn’t need ballots as this was not a split decision. It was an overwhelming voice of teachers like Nicole O’Brien. She told KOIN 6 News she’ll go on strike if it means a better classroom for her 7th- and 8th-grade social studies students at Marysville.
“I loved that the main issue is workload,” she said. “That’s my issue and to hear it said by everybody, that’s what we care about.”
In a statement issued almost immediately after the vote, the PAT said they will issue a strike notice to the Employment Relations Board and the Portland Public Schools district calling for a strike that begins on Thursday, Feb. 20.
“Portland teachers are united and resolved to stand up for our students’ learning conditions,” said PAT president Gwen Sullivan in a statement. “It’s time to move this to a conclusion so that we can have a contract that is fair for teachers and good for students.”
In response, Pam Knowles and Greg Belisle,the co-chairs of the Portland School Board, said in a joint statement, “We know that a strike would be extremely disruptive for students and families. Our goal is to reach an agreement that adds teachers to schools, adds school days, raises teacher pay and maintains strong benefits, and helps Portland keep and hire the best educators for our classrooms while keeping our spending in line with projected state funding.”
If teachers do strike, they will get strike pay — which can be less than half their regular pay.
“It’s never been about the salary,” said school counselor Andrea Nahurski. “It’s been about making the right decisions to affect long term improvements for schools and conditions and class sizes.”
Sullivan said the district has no business holding more than $30 million in reserve when it could use some of that money to reduce class sizes. If it takes a strike to get the district to budge, she said, so be it.
“The district really needs to know that teachers don’t want to do this but we will if we have to,” she told KOIN 6 News. “When they have the opportunity to make things better, put more money in the classrooms, that’s what they should be doing.”
The teachers and the district have been negotiating a contract since March 2013. The district declared an impasse on Nov. 20.
Since that time, Portland Public Schools and PAT have spent hundreds of hours in mediation over issues including class size, salary increases and early retirement incentives.
The next mediation session between PPS and PAT is set for Feb. 9.
KOIN 6 News will continue to follow this story.