Portland/ Community & Society
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Published on January 29, 2024
Portland School Staff Union Flexes Muscle with "Practice Picket" Ahead of Potential StrikeSource: Google Street View

Union members from the Portland Public Schools have taken to the streets in a show of readiness for what might become a larger standoff with district officials. The Portland Federation of School Professionals (PFSP), waging a battle for better pay and conditions, organized a "practice picket" this past Sunday before Benson High School. According to the Portland Tribune, the PFSP is in the throes of mediation with Portland Public Schools after nearly a year of negotiations without finalizing a new contract.

"We shouldn’t have almost 50% of our support staff working two jobs just to afford to live in the city," said PPS Occupational Therapist Kyla Laraway, as organizing a fair contract evades them. In a statement obtained by the Portland Tribune, she highlighted the stark reality facing the district’s support staff, emphasizing that the PFSP is seeking wage increases on par with those obtained by the Portland Association of Teachers in their recent three-year agreement.

The same Sunday, at the Benson High School picket line, the air was thick with calls for equitable treatment; PFSP members stressed the importance of their roles within the school system while wrestling with the notion that they are the least compensated. "I just want to make sure that the district can see a support staff as essential and valid workers,” Portland para educator Yasmin Correa told KOIN, underscoring the perceived devaluation of their contributions to the educational sphere.

While the PFSP has yet to take an official strike authorization vote, organizers hope to avoid repeating recent industrial action, culminating in a teachers' strike at the end of 202. The practice picket was in solidarity with construction workers who stood with educators. Despite the strike's 26-day span, students lost just 11 days of classroom time, a reminder provided by the KOIN interview. The PFSP insists upon improved training and compensation, signaling that more concrete actions could be imminent if their terms are unmet.

The situation is developing as the union nears the minimum number of days required for mediation before reaching an impasse. Portland Public Schools has yet to comment publicly on the escalation in union activities, leaving many to ponder the potential impacts on the school system should a strike move forward.