President’s Message: Working without a Contract

Welcome Back Educators!

Wow, what a start to the school year! Educators are working hard to prepare for students this year, despite numerous required days out of your buildings for district level training. Your time is valuable, so I will try to keep this message as brief as possible. 

Thank you for coming back. You could have chosen to teach anywhere else but you came back to our Portland students and community, and we appreciate you. Your Bargaining team will continue to fight for your future, your reps will support you in the present, and our Contract Action Team will help you find ways to join the actions we will hold until we win a strong contract!

Union Power = People Power

I don’t know about y’all, but everywhere I turn I see more and more workers coming together to build unions and fight for dignity in the workplace! Last year at this time I shared that we were at the cusp of a movement: Striking nurses under Kaiser in California, possible railworker’s strike, a recently ended strike in Seattle. I guess other folks heard about it too, as we had a 96% sign up rate for educators new to PPS this year!

Since then, the movement has only grown. We see Evergreen, Camas, and Battle Ground districts in Washington are heading towards a strike this week. There are at least a dozen other worker groups building to strike before our legal timeline in Portland ALONE.

But why prepare for a strike if we want to settle a strong contract? As Fredrick Douglass said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” When we show that we are ready to use the strongest tool in our toolbox, we create clear expectations for the district management: IF you think 3% is an adequate Cost of Living Adjustment, THEN we have the right to convince you otherwise. IF you don’t believe the PAT President when they share that folks don’t like working for PPS, THEN workers will make sure you hear from them directly. 

In pre-mediation, I made it very clear to our state mediator and PPS’ Lawyer and bargaining chair: Unless we have SIGNIFICANT gains on COLA, Planning Time, Class Size/Caseload Caps, & Safe and Healthy Schools, we cannot get the membership to pass the deal. In the end, our members decide if PPS’ offers of 3% COLA, 40 more minutes of planning for Elementary only, and no class size caps at all is good enough. I warned management, as Steve Lancaster has warned them at the table several times, we will not accept the status quo.

We will get more educators into our profession by making sure we have livable wages, sustainable caseloads, safe working conditions, support for all students regardless of need, and are being treated like the trained professionals we are. The only way to make that happen is when we UNITE, when we ORGANIZE. The future of Public Education depends on it.


The Advocate is Portland Association of Teachers’ Bi-Monthly(ish) newsletter, keeping you up to date on what your union is doing for you, for our students, our community, and the greater good.

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Support PAT

Are you interested in supporting our PAT communications team? We can’t compete with PPS’ ~$80k, but we have bubbly water! We are also getting support from NEA’s Communications team on training! Interested? Let us know HERE.

Solidarity Forever

ADVOCACY CADRE IS BACK! We will share more details about our new hotline structures soon after our one year hiatus. We had a ton of awesome candidates and look forward to introducing you all to them soon!

Lastly, there are and will be a ton of rumors floating around about a possible strike and other topics concerning our bargaining timelines. Just keep in mind: If it’s not from PAT, forget about that! You will all be the first to know if we are going on strike. Check in with your reps and CAT members for official information.

In Solidarity,

Angela Bonilla
President, Portland Association of Teachers