Education

Strike seemingly ends as Tacoma teachers and school district reach tentative agreement, and union sets vote

It’s over — finally.

Striking Tacoma teachers and school district leaders reached a tentative agreement Thursday evening that appears to have ended a week-long strike, paving the way for schools throughout the city to open Monday.

“We have a TA (tentative agreement),” said Angel Morton, president of the Tacoma Education Association.

Morton said members of the union will vote Friday at 11 a.m. at Mt. Tahoma High School, the same location where they voted last week to go on strike.

Terms of the deal were not available Thursday night, based on an agreement between the two sides.

“We have a tentative agreement,” said school district spokesman Dan Voelpel. “We couldn’t announce it first. TEA wanted to make sure its members knew first. Our board is working to schedule a meeting to approve the contract as well. We’re confident that it will go through, and school will resume Monday on its normal schedule.”

While schools will remain closed Friday, the district will keep its 12 regional buildings throughout the district open to serve breakfast and lunch to students who need it, Voelpel said.

While the settlement is unofficial, the agreement appears to end weeks of public acrimony and private negotiation. The district was confident enough to announce online the reopening of school on Sept. 17.

Teachers have fought for higher salaries comparable to those in surrounding districts. They were unsatisfied with an offer submitted Wednesday by the district. Reportedly, union negotiators presented a counter-offer to district leaders Wednesday evening. Details of that proposal and the district’s response were not clear Friday, and negotiations are not open to the public.

Wednesday, the district announced that district buildings would open for employees who wished to return to work, including teachers, noting that teachers who reported to work before school formally begins would receive extra pay.

Union leaders denounced the move as a strike-breaking tactic and urged members not to cross picket lines.

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The apparent settlement ends the prospect of legal action against striking teachers in Pierce County Superior Court. It also means a proposed fact-finding hearing before the state Public Employment Relations Commission probably won’t take place. That prospect was offered Friday by school district leaders, and was scheduled for Monday.

Whatever the terms of the agreement, state law dictates that the school year must last 180 days, meaning the school year will end a bit later than the originally scheduled last day of June 18.

Sean Robinson: 253-597-8486 @seanrobinsonTNT
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