Issaquah School District staff members vote to strike

Jan. 15, 2018 Update: Educators with the Issaquah School District voted Tuesday night to authorize a strike.

Issaquah Chapter of Public School Employees of Washington SEIU Local 1948 coted 98 percent yes and Paraeducators from SEIU Local 925 coted 94 percent yes.

“All we are asking is that the district do the right thing and honor the union contract that we negotiated,” said Emily Freet, assistant to the principal at Maple Hills Elementary and president of the PSE Issaquah Office Professionals Chapter. “We work hard every day to make sure that every student is cared for and has a great day at school. If the district doesn’t do what’s right, employees won’t be able to afford to live in their own district. The surrounding areas respect their school staff with quality wages and follow through on what was negotiated. Our staff, and most importantly our students, deserve better than this.”

“We negotiated in good faith with the school district,” said Chrissy Richmond, a paraprofessional at Issaquah High School and member of the SEIU 925 bargaining team. “A cost-of-living increase is clearly stated in our contract, but the school district has refused to honor this despite the fact that we testified at two School Board Meetings and filed an official grievance. We want Issaquah to follow the lead of the 290 other school districts in Washington and pass on the COLA increase to classified staff.”

Our previous coverage below:

At 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, hundreds of staff members at Issaquah School District will consider whether to leave their posts and head to the picket lines.

KIRO 7's Ranji Sinha spoke to the parties involved and breaks down the disagreement.

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"We're surprised to be honest, parties have disagreements we have language in our contract to have those disagreements resolved," said L Michelle, ISD spokesperson.

L Michelle says staff and para-educators at the ISD have a contract, and filed grievances in the fall.
She also says the next step in the grievance process is arbitration and not a strike.

The district is looking at a possible strike since hundreds of staff at the schools want a salary raise based on what's known as a Cost of Living adjustment -- they say the district isn't giving them that increase.

We saw countless districts deal with labor strife before and during this school year when teachers and staff demanded salary increases.

The landmark McCleary court decision forced the state to give school districts large sums of money to fully fund education.

Some districts passed the money on to employees -- but the staff at Issaquah schools now considering a strike did not get a cost of living increase.

The district says it's honored the contract and no staff received the cost of living increase this school year.

"I think it comes down to an interpretation of the contract....I do believe both parties will come to an agreement so that we can back to the work of supporting the students and families in the Issaquah SD," L Michelle said.

"What we say is really clear is that the lifetime of both contracts stipulates a cost of living increase," said Emily Freet, ISD office staff member.

Freet also said that many union members believe the district is not living up to the terms of the contract. She also said a recent poll of union members found a vast majority, approximately 90 percent, wanted to go ahead with a vote on a possible strike.

Emily Freet is a staff member and represents employees considering the strike. She says the employees and the district are at an impasse so a strike will make it clear to the district and the public where they stand.

"The schools would come to a halt, and that's the intent of a strike....our students and our staff deserve better we're talking about the group of employees that makes the least amount of money in our district," Freet said.

A union rep told me If the employees vote to strike it won't happen immediately, the unions would form a strike committee and decide when to potentially hit the picket line.