PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles School District on Thursday requested the state Public Employment Commission mediate contract negotiations with the Port Angeles Education Association, which has authorized a strike on Tuesday if it does not have an agreement by then.
The Public Employment Commission (PERC), which has jurisdiction over public sector labor relations and collective bargaining in the state, assists in labor-management disputes.
The district and union have been unable to resolve their differences during long and intense bargaining sessions this week, after the membership voted Monday to authorize a strike if an agreement could not be reached with the district.
The Port Angeles Education Association (PAEA) contract — which covers teachers, counselors, nurses, occupational therapists and psychologists — expired Wednesday.
PAEA agreed to the mediation, which began 10 a.m. Friday and ran all day.
The district and the union were prepared to meet over Labor Day weekend, but moving forward PERC will schedule meetings and determine procedures. The district and the union will bargain under PERC’s direction.
The next bargaining session had not been announced by the end of the day Friday.
School district communications spokesperson Carmen Geyer said a notice to families updating them on the status of negotiations would be sent Friday night and they would receive notification by 5 p.m. Monday on whether or not schools would be open Tuesday.
The district has said it would close schools if the union went on strike. If that occurs, school campuses would be closed to everyone except principals, custodians and maintenance personnel and non-striking staff. The doors will be locked and signs posted on and outside buildings.
Port Angeles’ is one of a number of schools in Washington where teachers have authorized a strike or are already striking.
Kent School District teachers went on strike Aug. 25, delaying the first day of school in the state’s second-largest district of 42 schools and 25,000 students.
Members of the Seattle Education Association authorized a strike Aug. 30 ahead of the Seattle Public School District’s first day of classes Sept. 7 for grades 1-12 and Sept. 12 for preschool and kindergarten. It is the state’s largest district with more than 100 schools and 54,000 students.
Teachers in Clark County’s Ridgefield School District authorized a potential strike Aug. 29, the day before the first day of school.
They have been in the classroom, and have said they will wait until the next bargaining session with the district on Sept. 7 before deciding whether or not to walk out.
The North Thurston County Education Association and North Thurston County Public Schools averted a strike delaying the start of the school year when they reached a tentative agreement Monday for a new contract.
The Port Angeles Paraeducator Association (PAPEA) and the Port Angeles Educational Office Professionals (PAEOP) are also engaged in bargaining sessions with the district.
PAEOP did not reach an agreement when it met Friday with the district; it will meet again Tuesday at 6 p.m.
The PAPEA also is planning to meet with the district on Tuesday, when they will focus on pressing for a cost of living wage increase.
Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at Paula.Hunt@soundpublishing.com.