Seattle teachers ready for final days of bargaining as strike looms
Seattle teachers will hold an organizing event this afternoon in Seattle as they get ready for the final days of bargaining in hopes of striking a deal with the school district on a new contract. The Labor Day event actually precedes a rally that’s supposed to happen Tuesday afternoon. If a strike is going to happen that keeps children out of school, it would hit on Sept. 7.
Jennifer Matter, head of the Seattle Education Association, did say that bargaining teams were working on Labor Day to try to strike a deal: “Our bargaining team is prepared and has been prepared to meet all weekend long even though it’s the Labor Day holiday, because nothing is more important to us than reaching a tentative agreement before school starts. So yes, we are bargaining today.”
Teachers rejected an effort by the Seattle Public Schools to try to cut a side deal essentially that would avert a work stoppage on the first day and guarantee that students could be in class. The memorandum of understanding would have kept teachers and staff working under the old contract but Matter said the option was rejected. She gave no indication that others with the SEA were willing to sign off on it as negotiations progress: “We need to focus on meeting at the bargaining table and reaching an agreement that’s how we get back to school on time. We feel a strong sense of urgency to reach a tentative agreement. The district needs to match that sense of urgency.”
On its website, Seattle Public Schools did publish a lengthy statement on the attempt to make sure the first day would happen. Part of the statement read: “We understand this Uncertainty about a delay is difficult and unsettling for our students, staff, and families. We hope that SEA will reconsider this MOU and sign it before Tuesday.”
The district’s online statement also said that it urged the SEA to not strike and that if it agreed to work under the old contract to ensure the first day of school is not delayed, then any agreed-upon salary increases from collective bargaining would actually be applied retroactively to Sept. 1, 2022.
Jennifer Matter said that the rally set to take place Tuesday could run down two different tracks. One would firmly send the union towards a strike, but if an agreement is reached it could be different: ” I would love for tomorrow’s rally to say that we have a tentative agreement, for us to be celebrating.”
Matter stopped short of saying that a strike was likely and said that the bargaining team and all SEA members were taking things day by day: “I wish I could predict what’s going to happen on Wednesday. But I do know that if the community would reach out to the school board and superintendent, and ask them to match our sense of urgency to reach a tentative agreement. Then I have more confidence that we could hammer out an agreement and meet the students’ needs for Wednesday.”
The efforts to get ready for the Tuesday rally are supposed to take place at Judkins Park in Seattle on Labor Day from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. The rally by SEA and its supporters on Tuesday is supposed to start around 4:30 p.m.