Washougal teachers voted Tuesday to strike if their union, the Washougal Association of Educators (WAE) and the Washougal School District (WSD) cannot reach a tentative bargaining agreement by 5 p.m., Monday, Aug. 27, one day before classes are set to start in the Washougal district.
The motion to approve a potential strike passed with the vote of 96 percent of WAE members in attendance at the union’s general membership meeting Tuesday, Aug. 21. WAE President Eric Engebretson said 180 out of 205 Washougal teachers represented by the union voted on the motion to strike.
“We will continue to do all of our training as scheduled this week and then by the first day of school, if a tentative agreement is not made we will not show up,” Engebretson said. “We are hoping we can get things taken care of this week so that school starts as planned. I think the strike vote sends a pretty good message that we need things taken care of.”
The union and district bargaining teams are scheduled to meet in negotiations Friday, Aug. 25.
Ryan Isaacson, a Washougal High School social studies teacher, attended Tuesday’s union meeting and said he hopes the strike vote will convince district leaders to present a salary schedule that clearly represents the amount of money allocated from the state for teacher salaries.
The union and district, like many in Southwest Washington school districts, have been at odds over how the district intends to allocate money from the state legislature’s “McCleary fix,” which was to remedy a state supreme court decision ordering Washington legislators to fully fund K-12 schools and adequately compensate teachers.
Engebretson said the negotiation teams’ most recent meeting, on Aug. 17, went well in the morning but came to a stalemate in the afternoon.
“We were concerned because we were told that there is just no more money to be had,” Engebretson said. “Then, after they could not give me a straight answer … they left the table and came back and offered an additional $150,000.”
That extra $150,000, however, would not make a significant difference since it would be spread thin over the district’s hundreds of teachers.
WSD Superintendent Mary Templeton has said the district is using every dollar given by the state, and then some, to support the district’s proposed 15.56-percent salary increase for its teachers.