A Message From your PAT Bargaining Chair

Your PAT Bargaining team has blocked off five days over the next week in the hopes of reaching a settlement with the District. In addition to meeting all day Thursday and Friday, we’re prepared to meet every day over the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend.

We will do everything we can to facilitate a fair contract settlement this weekend.

Unfortunately, we’re really at a crossroads. If we cannot reach a deal this weekend, we will be forced to consider our alternatives, including escalating towards a job action.

I’m not a gambler, but for folks that are trying to study the odds, I’ve summarized the good, the bad and the unknown surrounding negotiations.

At the end of this message I’ve also laid out a few ways you can help move things forward this week, and possibly set us up for success this weekend!

The Good

  • Top level District decision-makers—including Superintendent Guerrero and several School Board members—are now engaged in the bargaining process and attending mediation.
  • The District has withdrawn its refusal to bargain over workload issues.
  • We have reached agreement on several smaller articles where we were already fairly close to settlement.
  • We have had meaningful conversations around major issues including safety, compensation, work year, and workload.

The Bad

  • We have now gone 19 months working under an expired contract. Even an immediate settlement means that we will be back at the bargaining table in less than 12 months.
  • During our lengthy period working without a contract, other school districts have settled, putting our relative compensation even lower in the Metro 14 rankings.
  • We have not even reached conceptual agreement on some of the most important outstanding issues such as workload, work year, safety, retirement, and compensation. On many crucial issues, we remain far apart.
  • As evidenced by recently proposed program changes (e.g. the Pioneer Program), District leadership seems willing to take unilateral actions that will have a profound impact on students and educators without including us in the decision-making process.

The Unknown

  • It remains to be seen whether the District will agree to language that is acceptable to professional educators on the things that matter the most to us.
  • It is unclear whether the new District leadership will engage in collaborative problem solving with its professional educators or will continue the longstanding practice in PPS of imposing policies on educators.
  • Its too early to know whether Portland educators are entering into a new era of democratic, collaborative partnership with the District leadership, whether we’ll be working under a benevolent dictatorship, or worse, whether we’ll remain mired in a dysfunctional District.
  • Even if we can secure a deal on good terms, only time will tell whether the District will honor its agreements. Unfortunately, there is a long track record of the District backtracking or falling short on their commitments. Over and over we’ve seen them violate both the letter and the spirit of our contract, a pervasive and persistent problem that is poisoning the relationship between the District and PAT.
  • If the new leadership wants to reset our relationship they MUST take steps to prove that things are going to be different. Until we see evidence that District leaders will honor our agreements, we must remain vigilant, and demand transparency and accountability.
  • Going forward, we will be measuring the District’s actions against their words, and the power of our collective voices will be essential in holding the District accountable.

We Need You!

Meanwhile, your support and engagement is essential to reaching a fair settlement. Here are two things you can do to help us settle our contract!

  1. Please join us at the School Board meeting today, Tuesday January 9th. Beginning at 5:15 PM, we will be rallying with our colleagues from the Pioneer Program in front of BESC. Pizza will be provided.

    At 6:00 PM PAT members will join community allies during the public comment period of the School Board meeting. PAT President Suzanne Cohen will be testifying about critical safety and special education concerns raised by the District’s unilateral decision to relocate the Pioneer program last month, and how they relate to some of the key obstacles to settling a fair contract with PPS.
  2. Please change your personal social media profile to the graphic including this message “Support Portland Teachers, Settle Now!” We’re hoping educators across the District will change their profile picture for the full five days we’re slated to bargain with the District, January 11th-15th.

While we hope for the best in next week’s mediation, we’re preparing for the worst, including escalating towards a job action.

In the meantime, we will keep you updated from our bargaining over the weekend, so stay tuned.

In Solidarity,

Steve Lancaster
Bargaining Chair