Puyallup teachers deadlocked in contract talks

Posted: Wednesday, September 11, 2002

After 70 hours of ''frustrating'' talks, Puyallup teachers said contract negotiations with district administrators are deadlocked and have asked for a state mediator.

Meanwhile, talks in striking districts Issaquah and Snohomish won't continue until later this week; no major progress was made over the weekend, educators said. The start of classes in each district has been delayed four days by the strikes.

In all, about 6,200 teachers in Washington state districts covering nearly 93,000 students are still negotiating their contracts, and more strikes are possible.

In Puyallup, teachers are scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to strike. The district has about 20,000 students.

''At this point, I can't say what's going to happen,'' said Margaret Langston, president of the Puyallup Education Assoc-iation. ''The teachers do want to stay in the classroom.''

The 1,300 teachers are working for a second year without a contract.

Langston said there has been no progress on the major issues of compensation and district contributions to health care, but both sides will meet again today with a state mediator. Almost 500 Puyallup teachers rallied at a junior high school Monday night to support union negotiators, the union said in a news release.

District administrators remain optimistic.

''We hope to settle the contract this week,'' said Tony Apostle, the Puyallup District's director of administrative services. ''You have to remain optimistic during difficult negotiations.''

Teachers in Issaquah and Snohomish walked the picket lines again Monday. Talks in both districts stalled over the weekend.

The main issues are compensation and health care coverage.

Teachers and administrators in Snohomish, southeast of Everett, were scheduled to meet again Tuesday. Teachers and parents planned to march from Snohomish High School to ask the district to bargain in good faith.

The district has more than 8,000 students and 470 teachers.

Issaquah talks will resume Thursday, making it unlikely the 14,000 students there will head to class this week. About 850 teachers are striking.

A couple hundred students and parents rallied Monday at the Issaquah administration office in the eastern suburb of Seattle in support of the teachers.

In Bellevue, teachers ended talks Friday. They are working in the 15,000-student district without a contract.

The 1,000 Bellevue teachers could vote to strike Sept. 18.

In Tacoma, teachers and administrators will meet today. The talks are the first since the 2,300 teachers set a Sept. 30 negotiations deadline.

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