Seattle teachers strike called off, students to return Wednesday

Seattle Public Schools educators voted Tuesday to call off their five-day strike, pending ratification of a full contract between the district and the union.

A suspension means educators will return to work on Wednesday and school will start for all students.

The vote follows an announcement Monday night. night that the union and the district had reached a tentative agreement. Union members are yet to vote on the deal, likely later this week. If the members reject the entire agreement, the strike could start again.

According to a union tweet, 78% of members voted and 57% of those members approved the motion to call off the strike.

The vote came after a nearly eight-hour Zoom call with numerous tense exchanges between union leaders and members at large. At one point, more than 4,500 of the union’s 6,000 members were on the call, with many reporting technical problems.

A union member allowed a Seattle Times reporter to listen to audio of the Zoom conversation, and at various points during the call, union president Jennifer Matter, clearly frustrated, argued with members about the union’s bylaws and procedures for voting and debating. call various members off duty and mute microphones.

“I didn’t sign up to be addressed the way you addressed members today,” one educator commented. Matter apologized and added that he came from a place of love and appreciation, but the heated exchanges with the members continued.

“I’m losing my cool, everyone,” he said a few minutes later. “We can’t keep asking the same question over and over again,” referring to several requests to clarify the voting margins needed to call off the strike.

“Then you need to explain it better,” replied another educator.

Members who spoke on the call seemed divided; One faction supported calling off the strike, while another major group of educators complained they didn’t have enough time to review a summary of the tentative agreement, which union leadership shared around midnight Monday.

Direct questions from members continued after the union opened voting around 3 p.m. Union leaders kept the call open until voting closed at 4:30 p.m.

A vote by all members to call off a strike is a departure from 2015, the last time the union struck. In that case, union leaders and a representative assembly of the membership voted to call off their work stoppage.

A copy of the full contract was not immediately available and is generally not made public until ratified by union members. The contract must also be approved by the school board.

But a summary showed that Seattle educators and the district have agreed to 7% salary increases for certificated and classified staff. Originally the district proposed a 6.5% increasewhich included an inflationary adjustment of 5.5% financed by the State.

In the second year of the contract, affiliates would receive a salary increase of 4% due to inflation and 3% the following year. If the state finances a higher inflation adjustment, union members will receive whichever is higher, the tentative agreement says.

Classified staff (employees who do not need an education certificate) will also receive a one-time bonus in December of $1,500. That category includes educational assistants and office staff.

Under the new contract, if approved, classified substitutes would have some of the same benefits as certified substitutes: accrue sick and bereavement days after being assigned for 20 days, have primary substitute status, and receive job upgrades. professional development.

Another contentious point in the negotiation was whether to use the teacher-student ratio in multilingual and special education programs. Educators wanted to keep the ratios and the district wanted to have a model workload calculator instead.

According to the contract summary, most teacher-to-student ratios for students with individualized education programs (IEPs) remained the same. Some educational aids have been added to classrooms to support students with IEPs. If approved, the district’s Special Education Task Force will create a workload calculator to be used for the 2023-24 school year at a select number of schools.

Details of the workload calculator were not available in the summary, which said staffing ratios will be maintained at schools using the tool and “greater use of the workload calculator will have to be negotiated.”

The ratio of staff to students in the multilingual program would also remain the same, according to the summary. If approved, additional incentives for teachers to receive English and dual language endorsements would be included in the contract. There would also be retention bonuses for educators who already have those endorsements.

The new contract would add workload protections for teachers, school counselors, nurses and social workers.

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