Portland Public Schools teachers vote to authorize a strike, walkout set for Feb. 20
|Portland Public Schools teachers gathered Wednesday to vote to authorize a strike. They've been negotiating with district leaders since April. (Emily Jan/The Oregonian)|
Portland Public Schools teachers have authorized the first strike in the history of Oregon's largest school systems and set a walkout date: Feb. 20.
Hundreds of Portland Association of Teachers members gathered behind closed doors at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall Wednesday and emerged after about an hour with a firm yes vote to OK a walkout.
"We are sad but empowered," said Rosa Parks Elementary teacher Stephanie Windham. "It was an uproar. We are united."
The precise language they endorsed -- "PAT shall call a legal strike" -- sounds definitive, but the vote does not automatically trigger a walkout. Schools will be open and fully staffed Thursday.
Instead, Wednesday's decision gives union negotiators permission to authorize a strike if continued negotiations do not yield a contract. PPS leaders and union representatives are scheduled to meet in another mediation session Sunday. Union leaders will submit the required 10 day notification of a strike and plan to date the walkout Feb. 20, teachers at the meeting said.
“We’re hoping that ... they’ll understand that we’re unified, and they’ll try to resolve this quickly,” said Michele Huffman, a second-grade teacher at Whitman Elementary in Southeast Portland.
In fact, Lewis & Clark law professor Henry Drummonds said, strike votes sometimes help labor and management come to a deal by upping the pressure to