Camas teachers’ strike settled. Evergreen walkout continues. Portland strike possible later

By Rob Manning (OPB)
Sept. 8, 2023 10:47 p.m.

Tight school budgets, rising costs of living and growing needs in public schools in Oregon and Southwest Washington are combining to make it hard for district administrators and teachers unions to settle overdue contracts.

Teachers in Camas, Washington, voted Thursday to approve a three-year contract, bringing teachers and students into classrooms for the first time this school year. The deal came after a six-day strike in the 7,000-student district. Among the concessions teachers won is a 13% increase in compensation over the next two years.


Next door in Evergreen Public Schools, teachers and their supporters planned a Friday march on the district office to pressure administrators to reach a deal. Evergreen classes were supposed to start Aug. 30, but students have been at home as teachers remain on picket lines. Tensions are rising in the 23,000-student district, with administrators saying they could delay paying teachers, and union leaders accusing the district of illegally withholding their pay.

In both districts, teacher concerns are similar: aligning compensation with the rising cost of living and addressing challenging working conditions at school. Administrators are worried about escalating costs and avoiding agreements that could create financial problems going forward.

Portland Public Schools was able to start the year at the end of August, though bargaining between teachers and district leaders has been growing more worrisome.

PPS Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero sent a message to parents Friday warning of a possible teacher strike next month. Guerrero emphasized that the district wants to reach an agreement with the teachers without reaching that point.


“We also want to be transparent and provide you with ample time to plan for a possible school closure because we know how difficult a disruption would be on students and families,” Guerrero said in the message.

According to a summary on the PPS website, a strike would not only cancel classes, but would likely affect athletics, child care, performing arts and other extracurricular activities, as well as assistance with students’ college applications.

“If we cannot reach an agreement over the coming weeks, it could result in a strike later this fall, leading to school closures as early as the fourth week of October. If schools close, limited essential supports (e.g. meals) will still be available to students,” Guerrero said in his message.

The Portland Association of Teachers’ latest brief, posted to the union website Thursday, sounded a skeptical note about the direction of bargaining.

“It is clear the District does not want to bargain with us in any meaningful way about the issues most critical to educators and students,” the union wrote.

The Portland teachers union leaned on district negotiators to take steps in their direction in upcoming proposals and responses.

“Once again, we want to reiterate that we do not want to strike,” its message continued “However, the clock is ticking with two thirds of our articles unresolved, and the District has not moved enough on any of our priorities to engage meaningfully in the process. We continue to hope that the District will reconsider its approach to this negotiation so that a strike does not become necessary.”

PPS and the union met twice in mediated sessions, on Aug. 30 and Sept. 7, and they plan to meet again next Friday.

Portland has never had a teachers’ strike. Portland teachers voted to authorize a strike in 2014, but schools were spared the disruption when the union reached a deal with administrators just before the strike was set to start.