North Thurston teachers could vote on strike authorization next week

·2 min read

While 200 North Thurston teachers picketed outside the administration building as the district and the union were bargaining on Thursday and continued on Friday, no agreement has been reached on a new contract.

The first day of school is just around the corner, and the North Thurston Education Association said it is moving forward with the plan to hold a general membership meeting on Aug. 31 at 4 p.m. for a vote on a strike authorization. The current contract expires on the same day.

“Honestly, all I’m looking to do is my job, and to do it well. The district just doesn’t seem to be hearing what we are saying,” said Jojo McWhinney, a science teacher at Chinook Middle School.

The district and the North Thurston Education Association have been negotiating all summer on a new collective bargaining agreement in hopes of beginning the first day of classes, which is Sept. 7.

“The main thing that we’re asking for is a reduction in workload. A normal teacher day is, you know, an hour before school and then two to five hours after school. I also coach and things, and it’s not unnormal for me to be at the school until 10 o’clock or later,” said McWhinney.

“Something that I want is to be able to (have) my planning period so I can be the best teacher for my students,” said Nadine Tusse, seventh-grade teacher at Chinook Middle School.

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“Many, many extra hours, easily 50 hours a week, that’s a minimum for me. I get paid for 35 1/2 hours a week, and 60 hours is more the norm,” said Jeff Berland, special education teacher at River Ridge High School.

The union is also asking for a pay increase to keep up with rising costs. Union members had hoped that by the end of Thursday there would have been a tentative agreement so there would be no strike authorization vote next week.

KIRO 7 reached out to the district. The only statement it provided was that negotiations are underway, and it anticipates that school will start on time.