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School District sign outside administration building on Vista Drive (October 2016). Photo: My Ferndale News

UPDATED: Teachers union and school district negotiations determine strike potential

Officials with the Ferndale School District (FSD) and the Ferndale Education Association (FEA) have been meeting today in an effort to finalize a new 2-year collective bargaining agreement.

Some Washington state school districts with earlier class start dates have already announced plans to strike. A Washington Education Association official was recently quoted as saying they are seeing this year as a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to ask for big pay increases. WEA reports pay increases this year range between single-digit increases to over 30%.

If an agreement is reached here in Ferndale, it will be presented to the Ferndale School Board this evening during their regular meeting. The Board will then vote on the agreement. If approved by the Board, the FEA membership will then meet on August 30th to vote on the agreement.

FSD classes are currently scheduled to begin this year on Wednesday, September 5th.

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Billions of dollars have been approved to fund schools by the state legislature, including $2 billion specifically for teacher salaries. With this funding the state legislature has achieved, for the first time in recent memory, its constituently mandated obligation to fully fund basic education. Motivation for this can be seen coming from the Supreme Court with the 2007 McCleary case and 2012 ruling.

The Supreme Court issued a June order saying the legislature had met its constituently mandated obligation to fully fund basic education and was no longer in contempt of the a Court order to do so.

The Washington Education Association has published a map showing results of this year’s negotiations with school districts across the state.

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In the past, questions have arisen of the illegality of teacher strikes. The Washington State Attorney General’s office addressed those concerns in a response published in 2006. In short, the AG’s office said, “State and local public employees, including teachers, have no legally protected right to strike.” But, the explanation continues, “State statute establishes no specific penalties for unlawful public employee strikes; in some cases, courts may grant injunctive relief to prevent or end unlawful strikes.” The state legislature could enact laws establishing penalties for unlawful public employee strikes but has yet to do so.

Ferndale School Board members voted tonight to approve the new contract. The union membership will meet Thursday, August 30 to review the contract details and vote to accept or refuse the agreement.

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