Oregon’s Reynolds Teacher Strike Ends With Compromise

In Oregon, the teachers from the Reynolds school districts are scheduled to return to work this week after a five-day strike action came to an end this weekend. The teachers union and the district officials kept up negotiations over the course of the strike, often going all night before the picketers showed up to their posts in the morning.

The hopes that the strike would would not extent to the second week seemed dashed when an all-night bargaining session Wednesday night produced no compromise, and the union reps told members that the strike would go into its fourth day. However, on Saturday night, the negotiators from both sides announced that a tentative agreement had been reached, bringing the action to an end.

The deal came after about 18 hours of bargaining beginning Friday and stretching into the early morning hours Saturday, which followed more than a year of negotiations. The previous contract expired June 30, 2011, but teachers have worked under the terms of the old contract since then.

Details were not announced. The new agreement still must be ratified by the Reynolds Education Association membership and approved by the school board.

When the union first begun the strike last Monday, Reynolds district schools, which serve around 11,000 students, were closed. The district administrators decided not to emulate the example set by the neighboring Parkrose and Gresham-Barlow school districts whose administrators said that they planned to keep their schools operating with substitutes while the teachers protested on a picket line outside.

The first seeds of the compromise agreement were sewn last Thursday night when the two sides hammered out the details of one of the last remaining issues of the new contract agreement. Although most of the talking wasn’t done in a formal negotiating session but in informal meetings between representatives, the spokesman for the Oregon Education Association said the following day that the negotiating progress was encouraging.

The main point of contention was the insistence by the union that the district was holding too much money in reserve instead of allowing some of it to be used both for raises in teacher salaries and for recalling furloughed teachers to the classroom. Reynolds teachers have been operating under imposed pay freezes on at least several occasions over the last few years. However, the district insisted that a large reserve was necessary to assure that the schools won’t suffer catastrophic budget shortfalls as a result of the uncertain economic climate.

In a sign of cooperation, the Reynolds Education Association announced that teachers will assist school administrators and classified staff with posting U.S. flags on Memorial Day along Cherry Park Road in front of Reynolds High School.