The Stand

Kent teachers strike Thursday after failed contract talks

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UPDATE (Aug. 25, 2022) — Instead of starting the first day of classes in Kent on Thursday, members of the Kent Education Association will be on the picket lines. Kent School District officials and members of the Kent Education Association have been bargaining to reach a new contract for this school year this summer. They continued talking on Wednesday, Aug. 24, but did not reach agreement.

“The district has failed to engage in any proposal investing in students for the past six weeks and that’s why we’re at this point,” said Kent EA President Tim Martin. “The district’s decisionmakers aren’t educators. They don’t understand the issues we face in public schools.” 

At issue are several anti-union proposals ­­— including contractual protections against workplace discrimination— and the district’s refusal to pay a state-funded cost-of-living pay increase.

“We are just really disappointed to be at this point,” said Alisha Gray who teaches sixth grade at Sunrise Elementary. “The district’s anti-teacher proposals have thrown the entire community into unnecessary upheaval. I hope that we can get a fair deal as quickly as possible and go back to educating our kids.”

Kent Education Association is made up of 1,700 classroom teachers in the Kent School District. Unions representing other staff have also been facing difficult negotiations with the district this year. Kent EA is affiliated with the statewide Washington Education Association and National Education Association, both of which represent K-12 teachers, support staff and higher-education employees.

 


Teachers approve strike if no contract reached, pass vote of no confidence against Kent School Board and Superintendent Israel Vela

 

The following is from the Kent Education Association:

KENT, Wash. (Aug. 24, 2022) — Members of Kent Education Association voted overwhelmingly Monday to authorize a strike that would begin on Thursday, Aug. 25, if the district and union bargaining team are unable to reach agreement on a new contract by the end of bargaining today (Wednesday, Aug. 24).

Kent EA members and district officials have met several times since bargaining began in mid-July. Monday was the first day of teacher work time for this school year, and union members showed support for their bargaining team by wearing red and walking into and out of the buildings together at the beginning and end of their workday.

On Friday, Aug. 19, the union requested a mediator from the state Public Employment Relations Commission. Negotiations continued over the weekend and mediation was scheduled to begin Tuesday, Aug. 23. Union members have been surprised and disappointed that the district has repeatedly floated several anti-union proposals, including language on discrimination.

This disappointment in district management’s actions was reflected Monday night during the union’s meeting via Zoom as members approved a no-confidence vote in the Kent School Board and Superintendent Israel Vela.

Kent EA educators are also seeking a modest pay increase to keep up with the rising cost of healthcare and other living expenses. Despite state-budget funding that would fully fund an increase, district officials refuse to offer workers a fair deal.

“Our district is behind nearby districts, and we’re worried Kent’s ability to attract and retain the educators our kids need,” said KEA President Tim Martin, who taught fourth grade at Emerald Park Elementary before beginning his term as full-time union president.

“We really hope the district sees reason,” said Natalie Bachman, who teaches kindergarten at Horizon Elementary. “I’m eager to start the school year with my students. I hope it doesn’t come down to a strike, but we just can’t work under the anti-teacher conditions the district is proposing.”

Kent Education Association is made up of 1,700 classroom teachers in the Kent School District. Unions representing other staff have also been facing difficult negotiations with the district this year. Classes are sent to begin on Aug. 25. Kent EA is affiliated with the statewide Washington Education Association and the National Education Association, both of which represent K-12 teachers, support staff and higher-education employees.

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