Portland teachers authorize strike - KPTV - FOX 12

Portland teachers authorize strike

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It's a move that hasn't been made since 2003, the Portland Association of Teachers said its members voted to authorize a strike at a meeting Wednesday.

The union said nearly 3,000 members gathered at the Arlene Schnitzer Auditorium in downtown Portland and made the nearly unanimous decision after an update from the bargaining team on the negotiation process.

The union and Portland Public Schools have been working on a contract for 10 months. Workload has been one of the key sticking points: the union wants the contract to include about 90 more teachers than the district is offering.

"The district really needs to know we don't want to do this, but we will if we have to," said union president Gwen Sullivan about the strike. "When they have the opportunity to make things better, put more money in the classrooms, that's what they need to be doing."

The district has said it doesn't have the money to meet the teachers' demands and the school board released a statement expressing disappointment in the strike vote. Superintendent Carole Smith sent a letter to parents in advance of the vote saying the district's goal was to keep schools open during a strike.

By law, the union has to give 10 business days notice before a strike can begin so the work stoppage is scheduled to start on February 20.

It can still be called off. A mediation session is scheduled for Sunday and both sides are planning to attend.

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