Nov 1, 2023 - Education

Portland teachers walk out in district's first-ever strike

A photo of people walking down a street holding labor union signs.

Teachers, parents and Portland Public Schools staff walk down Burnside Bridge on Saturday. Photo: Courtesy of Portland Association of Teachers

For the first time ever, thousands of teachers working in Portland Public Schools (PPS) are on strike after failing to come to a contract agreement with district officials before Wednesday's deadline.

Why it matters: With more than 4,500 unionized teachers striking, 81 Portland-area schools are closed indefinitely, disrupting learning for more than 49,000 students and presenting region-wide child care troubles for parents.

Catch up quick: Negotiations over the teachers' contract, which expired in June, have stretched on for more than a year, with both sides struggling to come to an agreement regarding planning time, more specialist support for students in special education, class size, and pay.

What they're saying: "Unfortunately, after more than 12 months of bargaining, district leaders weren't willing to make the investments necessary to ensure every Portland student has the resources they need to thrive," Samara Bockelman, a PAT bargaining member and counselor at Beaumont Middle School, said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Loren Chasse, fifth grade teacher at Duniway Middle School, told Axios the district locked teachers out of their work email accounts at 5pm Tuesday.

  • "We don't want to strike, even though the onus of it is put on the teachers and the union, it really feels like the district brought us to a strike," he said.

The other side: "We are not unwilling to accept their full contract proposal; we are unable," Renard Adams, member of the PPS bargaining committee and chief of research for the district, said.

  • "We are not a private company. We have fixed revenue, and a strike will not change that."

What's happening: During the strike, no homework is due nor will students be marked absent. All extracurriculars, except high school varsity sports, are also canceled.

  • Free meals (breakfast and lunch) are available to all kids aged 1 to 18 at select food pantry partners and schools.
  • Health centers at Jefferson, McDaniel, Benson, Cleveland, Franklin, and Roosevelt high schools will remain open.

Dozens of organizations — including Portland Metro Arts, Northeast Community Center, Scrap PDX, Southwest Martial Arts, The Independent Dance Project, among others — are selling single-day "strike camps" for students, although waitlists are already filling up fast.

What's next: According to The Oregonian, the two sides won't meet again before Friday, so schools will be closed Thursday too.

  • A spokesperson for the union says teachers will be picketing at all locations where union members work starting at 7:45am.
  • A union-led rally will be held at Roosevelt High School from noon to 2pm.
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