Can Snoqualmie Valley schools operate without the people behind the scenes who help them function on a daily basis? The people who transport, feed, help instruct classes and clean up after local kids while they’re at school.
It’s a question on the table as the union representing SVSD classified workers (Instruction Aids and Para Educators, Bus Drivers, Kitchen/Lunchroom staff, Custodians and Mechanics), Public School Employees of Washington (PSE), continues to negotiate a new contract for its 200+ members.
According to one union member, the big issues are pay and contract length. The district is proposing a 4-year contract with a 1% raise each year. The union wants a 3-year contract with a 2% raise each year – similar to the raise given to teachers in September. There also is an issue regarding health care benefits and how much “carve out” will be paid by the district.
Opstad Elementary Kitchen Manager and 25-year employee, Kathy Ryan says union members haven’t had a cost of living raise in years, commenting, “We’re trying to make it on six-year ago wages.”
Ryan, who is also a union steering committee member, commented, “We don’t want to strike. We want a fair contract.”
The district and the union negotiated during the summer, including June and July when teacher negotiations were not happening, without reaching a settlement. PSE union members having been working without a contract (expired on August 31, 2013) as teams for both sides continue negotiations, including 3+ hour session yesterday, October 14th.
According to the union steward for Snoqualmie Valley bus drivers, the union was presented with a revised wage package during yesterday’s talks, along with the possibility of the removal of Insurance Pooling on Monday if an agreement was not reached on the wage package.
In the end, the union steward reported that their Board of Trustees held a short meeting and decided that PERC (Public Employees Relations Commission) mediator should be brought in to help with further negotiations, stating the sides were too far apart on wage issues.
The two sides are scheduled to bargain again on Friday, October 18th, but it is unclear a mediator can be scheduled before that time.
PSE Union members have been at the last two school board meetings, speaking to board members and asking for a “fair contract.”
Snoqualmie Valley School District has been asked for comment and will be added to story when available.