Portland Public Schools’ big bargaining success story of the fall has taken a turn for the worse: The Portland Federation of School Professionals failed to ratify a new contract Friday night. The two groups had come to a tentative agreement in mid-September.
“It was really close, but obviously our members expect more,” says John MacDuffee, PFSP president. “Good for them for speaking up.”
Three-quarters of PFSP’s 1,350 members—including school administrative assistants, paraeducators, library assistants, and campus safety associates—turned out to vote. The final count was 48.61% in favor of ratifying the contract, 51.39% against, MacDuffee says.
The three-year contract in question would have raised pay for its entire membership to a minimum of $20 an hour, provided cost-of-living adjustments, and given long-term employees two $500 longevity bonuses.
The union and the school district are now headed back to the bargaining table. They better coordinate Google Calendars quickly, as PPS has its hands full with a potential teacher strike.
“Our students’ success and our school system’s efficient operation depend on our dedicated classified staff,” says Valerie Feder, PPS spokeswoman. “Although disappointed, we will come back to the bargaining table with PFSP to achieve a fair contract.”
The Portland Association of Teachers declared an impasse in its tense contract bargaining with PPS on Sept. 15. The two sides are currently in a 30-day “cooling down” period; a strike could begin as soon as Oct. 23, according to the district.
Now the district must also revisit the demands of PFSP membership.
“Moving forward, we need to figure out how to get our members compensation they can live with—to thrive, not just to barely make it,” MacDuffee says.