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PPS seeks mediator; group urges more talks

Labor talks with teachers union stall as strike threat looms


After five months of unsuccessful negotiations with its teachers’ union, Portland Public Schools this week asked a state mediator to help with labor talks.

PPS and the Portland Association of Teachers have been talking since April about issues of salary, instructional time, health insurance and leave time. Both sides remain far apart on the issues.

Both sides’ positions are posted at pps.k12.or.us/departments/labor relations/.

One group of PPS parents isn’t in favor of the mediator stepping in. On Tuesday, a day after PPS made its announcement, a group called Our Portland, Our Schools sent a letter to the school board and union leaders. The group’s letter says members have been watching ongoing negotiations with interest, and were “heartened that at the end of the Sept. 6 meeting, there seemed to be a willingness on both sides to move beyond communication of their positions and get down to business.”

The letter continues: “Since that change of attitude carried over into a productive session on Sept. 14, we were surprised that at the end of the day, PPS indicated it was going to immediately exercise its right to move to mediation.”

The Our Portland, Our Schools members are urging both parties to negotiate face-to-face, in public. “We think this is important to build trust and goodwill, to be transparent to the public, and to avoid at all costs moving towards the imposition of a contract and the possibility of a strike,” they say.

“We urge both parties to publicly identify the key issues on which they need to see progress on in this round of negotiations. It is certainly not clear to the public what the real and perceived roadblocks are to a successful negotiation.”

Finally, the group urges both parties to agree to a fair timeline to reach settlement, such as mid-November.

“Our students and our community need you to stay at the table and hammer out a fair contract,” according to the group’s letter. “We have seen in the past examples of both of you working together for the greater good. We need you both to bring that spirit to the table.”

Our Portland, Our Schools is a mix of parents who’ve been active on local and statewide school issues. Two of the members, Rita Moore and Scott Bailey, have run for Portland School Board.

The co-chairs are Moore and Josh Curtis, and members include Bailey, Ted Wolf, Rhys Scholes, Betsy Salter, Mike Verbout and Paul Anthony.