UPDATE: School closed Wednesday; district gets temporary injunction in strike

Union plans to bargain until agreement reached

PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles School District received a temporary injunction Tuesday in Clallam County Superior Court to force paraeducators back to work, but members of the Port Angeles Paraeducators Association still intend to strike Wednesday at the district administration building.

There will be no school on Wednesday, and the paraeducators plan to strike until a deal is reached, a representative with the Washington Education Association said.

The intent of the injunction is to get students back into the classroom as soon as possible, perhaps Wednesday or Thursday, according to an email from the school district.

Technically, state and public employees like teachers do not have a legally protected right to strike in the state. It falls on districts to initiate legal action by seeking an injunction in the local superior court to force employees back to work.

Members of the PAPEA walked off the job Monday on what would have been the first day back from spring break after the union’s bargaining team and the district failed reach an agreement on a contract Sunday. The Port Angeles Education Association, which represents teachers and counselors, voted last month to honor the picket line.

While reaching an agreement about a 3.7 percent wage increase has been the key issue that has created an impasse in negotiations, paraeducators would also like to see improved salary steps and longevity compensation.

Port Angeles paraeducators are the only group in the Washington Education Association presently on strike.

In 2018, the PAPEA became the first all-paraeducator unit in the state to strike, according to the WEA, although paraeducators did join teachers and other staff in a 1976 strike against the Seattle School District.

According to a Port Angeles School District spokesman, the two-day strike will extend the last day of classes to June 18.

In a Tuesday letter addressed to Superintendent Marty Brewer and the five school board members, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz expressed her support for the paraeducators and urged a resolution to the impasse. The PAPEA has also received support from the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers Local 155.

In the email, the school district said it would “continue to work with the PAPEA to reach a fair contract that is both sustainable and fiscally responsible to future generations and taxpayers.”

The WEA representative said the PAPEA’s intention is to continue bargaining until it has an agreement.

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Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached by email at paula.hunt@peninsuladailynews.com.

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