ISD office professionals and paraeducators call off strike following tentative agreement

ISD strike committees ratified the district’s offer on Jan. 29.

Issaquah School District and the unions representing the district’s paraeducators and office professionals have reached a tentative agreement, putting a potential strike on pause.

After Issaquah School District (ISD) paraeducators and office professionals voted to authorize a strike on Jan. 15, the strike committees of both unions unanimously set a strike deadline of Tuesday, Jan. 29.

On the evening of Jan. 24, the joint strike committee for PSE SEIU Local 1948 and SEIU 925 met and reached a tentative agreement with the district. The strike deadline of Jan. 29 has been suspended.

On Jan. 29 a ratification vote meeting was held. Both unions voted yes to ratify the agreement: PSE by 91 percent and SEIU 925 by 87 percent.

“The district would like to thank the respective teams for their efforts to resolve this matter and look forward to our continued partnership,” the press release said.

The disagreement has centered around cost of living increases.

According to the collective bargaining agreement between ISD and Issaquah Association of Educational Office Personnel for September 2017 through August 2021 under Section 17.2.1, the district “shall pass-through cost-of-living adjustments (COLA)” for the periods covered in the contract. “Effective Sept. 1, 2018, employees shall receive a 2.5 percent (salary) increase above COLA for 2018-2019.”

According to the collective bargaining agreement between ISD and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 925 Paraprofessionals for September 2017 through August 2021 under Section 17.6.3, each step on the wage schedule will receive a COLA “plus a (4) percent (salary) increase.”

The tentative agreement includes a salary increase of a 3.1 percent cost-of-living adjustment over 2 years: 1.9 percent retroactive to September for the 2018-2019 school year, and another 1.2 percent for the 2019-20 school year, as well as an additional inflationary increase.

Emily Freet, the assistant to the principal at Maple Hills Elementary and new chapter president of the Issaquah Association of Educational Office Professionals, said she and the strike committees are pleased to receive the offer.

“I’m so proud of our members and all of the hard work they have put into getting this tentative agreement. After four months of campaigning by union members, including packing school board meetings, the strike committees were pleased to see this offer,” she said. “This is a victory for our union, our members, our district, our schools and the students we show up for every single day.”

Some members are still dissatisfied with the district’s offer. Sherry Mohr Wiens, a paraeducator at Issaquah Valley Elementary, said in a Facebook comment on SEIU Local 925’s Facebook page that “spreading the 3.1 percent over two years means that we will make less money over the two year period.”

“According to my math, I will lose about $300 this year if we accept this proposal. While that might be insignificant to some people, it’s not to me.,” Wiens said in her Facebook comment.

On the same SEIU Local 925 Facebook page, Wendee Fowler, an ISD secretary, said while the offer isn’t the full amount both unions were expecting, she thinks it’s a “genuine offer.”

“I have been thinking about this offer and doing the math. I agree that we have gone from a COLA and a district who would not talk to us and said they would see us in court. Now we have a genuine offer,” Fowler said in her Facebook comment. “In any mediation/negotiation you have to at times comprise. The question is how much. After doing the math, we would be right back on track where we should be in September 2019 as if the district had honored our contracts. I did the math on how much money I wouldn’t get in my monthly paycheck this year. The amount is actually very small.”

She continued by posing the questions as to whether the groups should strike over “a small amount of money.”

“Are we willing to strike over a small amount of money? I’m concerned that we might lose the massive support we have garnered. There is no guarantee that another offer would be forthcoming from the district. There is no guarantee that we would win in arbitration. I will continue to think about this and I will be at the meeting to hear from the strike committee on why they feel this is an offer we should take,” she said. “It is only my personal opinion but I’m starting to lean toward yes on this because the compromise on our part is relatively small. We have gotten this far by sticking together and the outpouring of support for us.”

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