Last Updated on November 6, 2023 by Robert C. Hoopes
Portland Public Schools and its teachers union are engaged in ongoing negotiations as they strive to bring an end to the ongoing strike. While public statements from the Portland Association of Teachers (PAT) express optimism and describe the conversations as “constructive,” internal communications to union members reveal a more pessimistic outlook. PAT leaders are urging educators to prepare for the possibility of continuing picketing.
A major concern for the union is the sluggish pace of bargaining. Union members have been waiting for written proposals from management, particularly concerning workload relief. Both sides remain divided on several key issues, including cost-of-living adjustments, independent planning time for teachers, and caps on class sizes.
Significant disparities also exist between the financial proposals put forward by the two parties. Over the three-year contract period, the costs differ by approximately $200 million. This financial gap poses a significant challenge to reaching an agreement.
A crucial deadline looms for teachers regarding district-paid health insurance. If they fail to return to work by mid-November, they risk losing coverage for December. However, those on strike may have the option to avail of the federal COBRA program, which enables individuals to maintain their existing health coverage for 18 months after leaving their job. Past experience has shown that labor unions have assisted their members in covering these costs during strikes.
The strike has had a direct impact on students, resulting in the cancellation of classes for Portland Public Schools on Monday. As negotiations continue, it remains uncertain when normal operations will resume, leading to concerns about missed instructional time and disruptions to students’ learning.
The negotiations between Portland Public Schools and the teachers union are being closely monitored by stakeholders, including parents, students, and the broader community. Both sides must find common ground and work towards a resolution that addresses the concerns raised by the union while ensuring the needs of students are met.