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Saturday, December 2, 2023
Dec. 2, 2023

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Camas teachers strike for second day

By , Columbian Web Editor, and
, Columbian staff writer

The Camas Education Association is striking for a second day Tuesday after Monday’s bargaining session again failed to yield a deal on a new contract with the Camas School District.

Schools in the Camas School District were closed for the first day of classes Monday as members of the Camas Education Association went on strike amid stalled contract negotiations.

The union — which represents 460 certificated staff members across the district — picketed outside several schools early Monday morning, waving signs and leading chants in support of teachers.

Union leaders said the district is not hearing out their requests to redirect unused surplus funding to maintain smaller class sizes, increase funding for supplementary programs and improve support for special education.

“We are here today very unfortunately because as a teachers union this is the position our district has put us in,” said Kate Gooding, an English teacher at Camas High School. “As educators, our priority is keeping our students in a positive learning environment.”

Union members continued picketing until 3 p.m. and reconvened to rally outside the district’s board of directors meeting at 5:30 p.m.

“This is the moment when we as educators show why we do this work. It’s all for the students,” Camas Education Association President Marci Zabel said in a statement Monday. “Our students need more support, equitable access to resources and smaller classes. We’re taking action now to make sure (Camas School District) meets student needs.”

Contract details

In a statement posted on the district labor relations webpage Sunday evening, the district said the union’s latest proposal featured “higher than previously requested salary increases,” and it felt “(the union) is regressing” in talks.

The union’s latest formal proposal dated Aug. 27, however, shows the union did not request a salary raise in excess of what’s provided by the state’s annual inflationary factor for any years of the contract. The district’s latest proposal, also dated Aug. 27, shows it had offered the union a raise of 2 percent plus the state inflationary factor; the proposal was declined.

“Nobody has asked for a raise,” said Joe Farland, an English teacher leading the strike Monday at Camas High School. “What’s really sad is the inflammatory, misleading communication district leaders are putting out. They’re misrepresenting conversations, they’re stretching the truth. We just want lower class sizes for our students. We want our students to feel supported.”

Farland said the district’s statement conflated informal suggestions made during the negotiation process and formal proposals, which he said he felt wasn’t “in good faith.”

Regarding class sizes, the district and union appear to be furthest apart on the maximum class size for kindergarten; the district has offered a cap of 22 students while the union has requested a cap at 18. The district has also proposed higher cap sizes than what the union is seeking for first and second grades.

Other district bargaining continues

No notable progress was made over the weekend or Monday between teachers unions and district representatives in both Evergreen Public Schools and Battle Ground Public Schools.

The Evergreen Education Association — the biggest teachers union in Southwest Washington, with about 1,500 members — issued a statement Monday morning that it was prepared to strike starting Wednesday, the first day of school, if a deal isn’t reached Tuesday. Union members are planning to hold a rally and sign-making event at 4 p.m. Tuesday at LeRoy Haagen Memorial Community Park to prepare for a strike if necessary.

The Battle Ground Education Association had not reached a deal on a new contract with the district as of Monday evening. Like Evergreen, the district is set to start the school year Wednesday. Union members will have a full membership meeting Tuesday evening either to ratify a tentative agreement or vote to strike.

10 Photos
Camas teachers and supporters chant and hold their signs high as they join a district wide strike outside Camas High School on Monday morning, Aug. 28, 2023. The strike postponed the first day of school in the district.
2023 Camas School District Strike Photo Gallery

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