Portland's largest teacher's union—locked in prolonged and nasty contract negotiations with Portland Public Schools—now says the district has engaged in unfair negotiation tactics for refusing to take up language that would increase teacher pay for larger class sizes.
The Portland Association of Teachers today announced it's filed a formal complaint with the Oregon Employment Relations Board. The union says it's been trying to get PPS to discuss teacher workload since talks began in April, and that the school district has repeatedly refused. But in a final offer submitted in late November—after the district declared an impasse in discussions, a move which could lead to Portland's first-ever teachers strike—officials suggested a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that would hold teacher workload steady for the next two years (the school district has been trying to remove a provision that holds teacher workloads to 1998 levels).
"The District is improperly refusing to discuss in bargaining Association proposals which concern employee workload and pay," the complaint says. "At the same time, the District has insisted on including as part of its own final offer submission a proposed MOU which concerns the very topics it refuses to discuss when they are addressed by Association proposals."
The union also contends the school district is required to hand over information on teacher workloads, but hasn't. (Oregon teachers have historically high workloads). It wants the board to find PPS is engaging in illegal bargaining tactics.
The parties are next scheduled to meet with a mediator later this week. If the disagreement persists, the PAT could legally strike later this month, though it would almost-certainly wait until after the holiday break.
Here's the complaint [pdf].
Update, 4:26 pm:PPS says it hasn't received a copy of the complaint. (Though it wouldn't be hard for the district to come across one. Up above, for example.) The district just sent out a statement from Chief Human Resources Officer Sean Murray. Here's part of it:
"Teacher workload is a mandatory subject in bargaining, but class size is not. Oregon school districts decline to bargain class size limitations because class sizes depend on state funding, which school districts do not control. Bargaining these limits in a labor deal, as PAT has proposed, also shuts parents and the community out of these important conversations. We remain focused on reaching a negotiated settlement that helps our schools hire more teachers, hire the best teachers, and add school days for students.”