Tensions High as Portland Teachers Strike Enters its Second Week

Tensions High as Portland Teachers Strike Enters its Second Week
Families, students, and teachers march across the Burnside Bridge in Portland, Oregon, in advance of a districtwide, strike that began on Nov. 1, 2023. (Portland Association of Teachers.)
Scottie Barnes

The Portland Association of Teachers (PAT) strike has begun its second week of canceled classes, leaving nearly 45,000 children out of school.

Tensions are high between the two sides, with PAT supporters conducting what the district calls illegal activities by protesting outside district leaders’ homes and workplaces.

The union and PPS have been bargaining for nearly a year, with teachers working without a contract since June. The two sides remain about $200 million apart in their proposals, with sticking points on wages, class-size caps, and planning time.

Teachers and Portland Public Public School (PPS) administrators appear closer to a deal, with each side submitting new contract proposals over the weekend.

Both appear to agree on the number of holidays and days teachers can have for grading as well as fewer required meetings for teachers, but many sticking points remain.

PPS officials released what they said is “a significant offer, and it is not without trade-offs. Absent any new revenue, budget cuts will be unavoidable and we will need to implement significant cost-saving measures,” officials wrote.

But the union had harsh words for the district on Nov. 12.

“PPS has the ability to end the strike and put resources into schools that will benefit kids and yet they chose to squander another weekend and continue the strike,” PAT President Angela Bonilla said in a statement.

What’s on the Table?

In its Nov. 11 offer, PPS agreed that educators need better working conditions and compensation to “keep up with the financial reality of living in Portland.”

It proposed a three-year contract worth more than $147 million. The offer includes $30.5 million in new concessions since its “final offer” in September.

Teachers would receive an 11 percent cost of living increase over a three-year period. It also offers a 1.5 percent increase and a $3,000 per year stipend for special educators and those who take on additional responsibilities.

PAT is asking for close to 19 percent raises over three years, which is less than teachers had previously requested.

The district has offered to allocate $11.8 million to teacher planning time, giving elementary teachers 410 minutes of paid planning time per week. That is up from the current 320. The union has asked for 440 minutes for elementary teachers.

As the strike drags on, the strain is beginning to show.

A Combative Week

The tension between the two sides escalated last week.

The school accused PAT supporters and union members of illegally protesting outside of district leader’s homes and workplaces, as well at the Oregon Convention Center where school board member Andrew Scott was attending a meeting.

In the Nov. 8 letter on behalf of PPS, attorney Dennis Westlind claims that nearly 1,000 protesters marched from PAT offices to the convention center where Mr. Scott was attending an event in his role as deputy chief operating officer at Metro.

PAT protesters reportedly “surrounded” the convention center, chanting slogans including: “Andrew Scott you’re no good. Treat your teachers like you should!’”

Protesters reportedly gained early access to the convention center where they opened doors allowing others to enter the secured wing of the building where Mr. Scott and other Metro members were meeting.

The letter claims the group then “loudly protested and even attempted to force open the door to the conference room where the Metro team was meeting and then sheltering.”

Mr. Scott and others had to be evacuated from the facility, the letter claims.

In a separate episode, PAT supporters reportedly gathered outside the home of PPS Chief of Staff Jonathan Garcia and “threateningly taunted him by asking him if their presence made him feel uncomfortable,” according to Mr. Westlind’s letter.

“I respect a union and their supporters right to strike, protest, and advocate for their members,” Mr. Garcia wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“However, coming to my home this morning was unacceptable. My wife nor my neighbors deserve to be shaken by strangers outside, no matter what they are chanting or doing.”

Elsewhere, after calling for a vote of no confidence in PPS Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero, PAT supporters protested outside Mr. Guerrero’s home on Nov. 9. At the time, he was bargaining with the union, the letter said.

“If a labor union pickets the home or business of a member of a governing body with respect to a collective bargaining dispute, that may be grounds for an unfair labor practice charge,” Mr. Westlind’s letter continued.

PPS added the district is “evaluating other legal action that it may take to protect its employees and officials from PAT’s threats, violence, and terrorism.”

Scottie Barnes writes breaking news and investigative pieces for The Epoch Times from the Pacific Northwest. She has a background in researching the implications of public policy and emerging technologies on areas ranging from homeland security and national defense to forestry and urban planning.
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