Extended contract negotiations Saturday and Sunday failed to end the Longview teachers strike, and students will miss a fourth day of class Tuesday, school district officials have announced.
No further talks were planned for Monday, but the district and union plan to meet again Tuesday morning to continue mediated negotiations.
Failure to reach an agreement on pay raises led the Longview Education Association, the Longview Classified Pubic Education Association and Service Employees International Union to issue a letter questioning district leadership.
“The unions have tried to remain positive in their messaging to their membership and the public, but no longer have confidence the the people sitting at the table for the district are able to move this bargain forward. Superintendent (Dan) Zorn has received authorization to use the same tactics used by other superintendents in Southwest Washington: threats, stalling and refusal to consider creative options for reaching a fair settlement. The unions’ position is Superintendent Zorn and/or School Board members need to be at the negotiating table in order to reach a more expeditions resolution,” according to the statement.
In response to the letter, district spokesperson Rick Parrish said, "The district is focused on resolving the work stoppage and getting the school year started."
Neither Zorn nor any school board member are participating directly in the talks.
The district had hoped to announce a decision on Tuesday classes by 5 p.m. Sunday, but bargaining went on until 11 p.m. Sunday night. So the district did not post a closure decision until after midnight Monday morning.
“Even though we promised a 5 p.m. update, there was a lot more talking into the evening, so we thought was important to wait,” district spokesman Rick Parrish said of the late closure notification.
According to lead LEA negotiator Dena Enyeart, the district over the weekend increased its pay raise offer to 7 percent, up from 6.9 percent. The faculty wants 11 percent.
A 6.9 percent raise, coupled with an 8 percent raise teachers got last year, would bring the average annual teacher salary in the district to $70,000, according to the district. District officials are projecting budget deficits over the next four years and say the district can’t afford higher raises. Teachers are saying they should be getting more money under the Legislature’s “McCleary fix.”
Longview School Board members have authorized Zorn to go to court to get the strike declared illegal and order the teachers back to work.
Although he retains the authority to take legal action against the strike, Superintendent Dan Zorn has not made any decision to do so at this point, Parrish said.