Medford Strike HQ, from the Medford teacher union Facebook Page

Medford Strike HQ, from the Medford teacher union Facebook Page

Medford teachers will go on strike tomorrow. Portland teachers voted tonight to potentially strike on February 20. Other than these strike votes, the districts have been ratcheting things up all the way. Common themes in district behaviors:

Neither Medford nor Portland have been on strike before (our list of Oregon education strikes).

# of initial contract “rollbacks” (contract takeaways) proposed at the start by the districts:
Medford School District (MSD): 118
Portland Public Schools (PPS): 78
Both numbers are unusually high.

MSD declared an end to 150 days of direct bargaining.
PPS declared an end to 150 days of direct bargaining.
150 days is the mandated minimum. Direct bargaining could have continued.

MSD demanded a state mediator.
PPS demanded a state mediator.

MSD declared impasse after 15 days of mediation.
PPS declared impasse after 15 days of mediation.
15 days is the mandated minimum. Mediation could have continued without declaring impasse.

A declaration of impasse means a both parties must submit a final “best offer” and a cost estimate for that offer within seven days. MSD and PPS pushed for this “best offer” stage.

After the “best offers” are submitted, there is a 30-day cooling off period. After that cooling off, if an agreement is not reached, the employer may implement its proposal as if it is the new contract. The union’s option after a cooling off period is to declare a strike. Neither the employer nor the union need to implement or declare a strike. Bargaining can continue.

If any of the above escalation steps by the districts had not happened, Medford and Portland would not be looking at strikes. Bargaining would still be going on. Students, families, and communities would be curious (or more likely blissfully ignorant) about bargaining. Now both Medford and Portland families are scrambling around to figure out what may be happening next.

Yet, in both districts, finances are basically stable. Portland has actually taken in an additional $20 million in unexpected revenue. So, what’s the holdup to getting a deal?

Better ask the Medford and Portland school districts. They apparently have a plan. Everyone else is just living in it.

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