The winds of change are blowing. Can you feel it?
Our union siblings in Woodburn, WEA, have lost 96 teachers since May 2021. They are also fighting for smaller class sizes and caseloads, in addition to increased pay and declared an impasse on March 15th, 2023. Our union siblings in Silver Falls, SFEA, are fighting for class size caps and declared an impasse. Both WEA and SFEA have voted to authorize a strike.
SFEA reached a tentative agreement (TA) Monday night gaining important wins around class sizes and overages. Woodburn reached a tentative agreement around 1am on Thursday morning ensuring almost 18% COLA over 3 years, and hard class size and caseload caps. The management team accepted their last and best offer after arguing earlier they could never agree to such caps.
The proof is in the pudding: Strikes work. In fact, they work so well that just a credible threat of a strike was enough to force the district to provide our educators and students what they deserve.
What our siblings fought for and won in Woodburn and Silver Falls is exactly the fight we are in here in Portland. We want safe, sustainable, and equitable schools. We are fighting for more staff, more interventions, more support so every student can access instruction. We are asking for more instruction and less testing that does not inform our instruction. We are asking for Mental Health Support teams at each site and an acknowledgement of the different but crucial role our counselors, social workers, school psychs, and QMHPs play in our schools. We are asking that schools prepare for the influx of students moving through our system with extra support and forward planning. And we have heard these same demands from sites across the district. We have heard it through the bargaining surveys, hundreds of one on one conversations and site visits by our OEA staff, your PAT Vice President, Jacque Dixon, and I. Thank you to all the reps who have helped coordinate those visits.
As I stated in bargaining, educators are fed up. We are done working for free. We are done being morally injured. We are done holding up a broken system on our backs. That is why we are ramping up our Bargaining Campaign with an All Representative Meeting on May 3rd, 2023 at First United Methodist Church from 12:00pm-4:30pm. We have asked substitutes to make themselves available for that day in order to support the over 300 educators taking a PM half day to collaborate and learn more about our next steps. We are planning on a districtwide Community Art Build this fall and new information about how the kicker impacts our ability to fully fund schools in Oregon.
The winds of change are strong and inevitable. As Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr once said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” I know members are tired. I know you have done so much and have been beaten up by the system you are a part of again, and again, and again. But we will not stop until we have great public schools for each and every student, community and educator. Just hold on, keep your head up, and remember we have each other to lean on. Solidarity means we step up when we can, step back when we must, trusting our union siblings to lift us up and carry on the work.
Join the PAT Flying Squad to find out about events and rallies in support of educators across the state and unionists within Portland!
As always, thank you for waking up and coming to work every day. In case no one told you today, you're awesome and loved.