MEDFORD, Ore. – After nearly a year of failed, back-and-forth negotiations, Medford teachers have announced their intention to go on strike. The announcement came after overwhelming majority voted to sacrifice their pay and benefits and stand in the picket lines.
But there is still a sliver of hope that a bargain can be reached.
“The district has the power to stop this long before it comes to that date,” said MEA President Cheryl Lashley.
But school board members say any bargain that would satisfy the union’s terms would also sacrifice their ability to hire more teachers – adding to an already dire situation.
“We have classrooms of 36-40 kids,” said school board chair Jeff Thomas. “We have kids that, when they start at a class, they don’t have a desk or have to sit on the floor.”
While both sides voice their arguments, trust continues to erode.
In a statement released Sunday, the district laid their frustrations with the bargaining process and accused teachers of making threatening calls to substitutes. The MEA denies that claim, stressing that many substitutes will sympathize on their own.
“If they are a sub, they’re a teacher,” said Lashley. “And they should know that we have to stand up for our profession.”
Both sides say they hope to avoid that stand altogether, but neither school board nor MEA members are holding their breath.
“I’d like to say we are planning for the best, but we’re preparing for the worst,” said Lashley.