Portland Public Schools announced this morning that it has come to a tentative agreement on a three-year contract with the Portland Federation of School Professionals.
PFSP represents 1,350 school professionals, including school administrative assistants, paraeducators, library assistants, and campus safety associates. The union’s big negotiation success was raising pay for its entire group to a minimum of $20 an hour.
“To raise the entire pay chart by a set dollar amount is unusual,” says John MacDuffee, union president. “We are happy that we are able to get those people who were paid so little significant increases.”
About 98% of the bargaining unit earns more than $20 an hour. The agreement, which also provides cost-of-living adjustments over the three years, now goes to PFSP members and the School Board for a vote to ratify.
In a statement, Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero said: “The success of our students, and the effective operation of our school system, is possible because of the dedicated support by PFSP members. We are grateful for their unwavering commitment to the district’s students and families, and for their productive engagement throughout these negotiations.”
PFSP’s bargaining success story comes as the school district’s negotiations with the Portland Association of Teachers have started to get nasty. Guerrero warned parents on Friday that they should start preparing for a teachers’ strike as early as the fourth week of October.
If the teachers strike and school is canceled, MacDuffee, a library assistant, says his union’s members will be obligated to show up for work—and will be paid whether students are there or not. They would wear some sort of identification as they cross the picket line so that people do not confuse them with scabs, he says.
Now that his union has made it to the other side of bargaining, MacDuffee has some words of encouragement for PAT.
“The needs of teachers across the country is so high,” he says. “There is no end in sight to the problems that will happen in public education if we don’t begin to honor them and make the workplace look attractive to people so they will consider working as teachers.”