The National Education Association Has Already Started Arriving in Portland for Teachers’ Strike

NEA president Becky Pringle is scheduled to rally at Scott Elementary on Wednesday morning.

READY TO WALK: Portland Association of Teachers President Angela Bonilla at an Oct. 28 rally. (Brian Burk)

The National Education Association is already circling its wagons in Portland, in a sign that the teachers’ strike is more likely to happen than not.

NEA president Becky Pringle will fly to town if the Portland Association of Teachers cannot settle on a contract with Portland Public Schools and the union indeed goes on strike Nov. 1 as planned. The two sides are in mediation tonight and Tuesday to try to settle before teachers walk off the job on Wednesday, closing all 81 PPS schools in the district.

“I’m so proud of our teachers in Portland, Oakland, Los Angeles and all across this country who are standing up and using collective bargaining for the common good,” Pringle says. “I’m coming to Portland to show the teachers they have the full support of the country’s largest labor union behind them.”

If the two sides can’t settle before Wednesday, Pringle’s swing through Portland would include a 7:45 am strike-line rally with PAT president Angela Bonilla alongside educators, parents and students at Scott Elementary School on Northeast Prescott Street. She also tentatively plans to visit three other schools’ strike lines and hold a press conference at Roosevelt High School.

Representatives from the NEA were already on the scene at Saturday morning’s PAT march across the Burnside Bridge. Specifically, an NEA employee wearing a blue sweatshirt with the words “Strike Doula” written across his back was working closely with PAT at the rally.

He would not give an interview because “this is about the union—it isn’t about me” but said he is a professional labor organizer who flies in to cities to coach teachers’ unions through their strikes. He is based in Minneapolis, where the teachers held out on a whopping three-week strike in 2022. (The NEA is headquartered in Washington, D.C.)

The chief sticking points for PPS and PAT include wages (specifically cost-of-living adjustments), class size and teacher planning time.

Deputy superintendent Dr. Cheryl Proctor emailed PPS families Monday night with plans for how the school district would communicate school closures. Parents should expect emails tomorrow at 1 and 7 pm reporting on the status of the negotiations, Proctor wrote. From then on, parents will receive texts and emails each evening by 7 pm letting them know whether their child’s school will open the following day.

“Even if we do not reach a deal by Nov. 1, PAT could decide not to strike beginning Wednesday,” Proctor wrote. “We hope they will stay at the table with us.”

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