Staff workers strike Oregon union

September 24, 2008

PORTLAND, Ore.--Forty-two members of the Professional Staff Organization (PSO) are on strike against their employers, the Oregon Education Association (OEA)--the teachers' union that represents 48,000 Oregon teachers.

PSO members, whose contract expired on July 2, walked picket lines outside OEA offices around Oregon on September 15. In August, the OEA made their "last, best offer," which included scaled-back pension and medical benefits.

On the picket line in Medford, PSO member Jane Bilodeau told the Mail Tribune, "It's never a happy time when you have to go on strike, but we also feel that if we don't stand up for our union, how could we be trusted to stand up for others' unions?"

The Portland Association of Teachers (PAT), part of OEA, sent out a special edition of their newsletter The Advocate with a statement from President Rebecca Levison that said, "The basic premise of unionism is an injury to one is an injury to all."

"As a unionist, I don't expect anyone to cross a picket line," she continued. "I will not be working at the PAT office." Levison also said she would not be doing the work of the three PSO members in Portland.

The newsletter also included a statement by three striking PSO members, Nancy Arlington, Kathi Koenig and Dee Simmons:

OEA and PSO have been bargaining since last spring. Although the OEA has adopted bargaining standards for school employee contracts that include NO ROLLBACKS, the OEA is proposing rollbacks to our contract.
In an effort to avoid a strike, our PSO bargaining team offered to keep current contract language with only a cost of living based salary adjustment and an adjustment for gas reimbursement. That offer was refused by OEA.

PAT is scheduled to begin contract negotiations with Portland Public Schools next week. The PSO members are part of the negotiating team along with rank-and-file members.

It's expected that Portland Schools are going to play hardball, so it is galling that the language that the OEA used against the PSO is the same kind of language that the Portland Schools will be using against the OEA teachers.

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