MEDFORD, Ore. – Saturday morning teachers and supporters ditched the picket lines and went mobile, carrying their message on cars to get bargaining back on track.
“It feels empty without the teachers,” said South Medford High School Junior Ivan Lopez. “It doesn’t feel the same.”
The two sides are scheduled for a check-in with the mediator on Tuesday. While it isn’t a full bargaining session, it’s the first meeting of the bargaining teams since negotiation derailed during last Thursday’s meeting.
Superintendent Dr. Phil Long says the MEA came into that meeting prepared to push back a longevity stipend for experienced teachers by one year: a $60,000 concession.
But at the same time he says the district offered to extend early retirement by one year: a $4.5 million olive branch.
“While we moved big in the afternoon on Thursday, the size of the response from the MEA was very small,” said Long.
But the MEA argues early retirement still falls short of their last contract. Meanwhile, they say the district pushes for third year that ups their insurance payments from the first two and forces them to move backwards.
“On year one and two the teachers and the district are very close to an agreement,” said MEA representative Lisa North. “It would be likely that if we can just look at two years we could actually end this strike.”
But that isn’t likely to happen tomorrow. While the two sides are checking in with the mediator, they say a bargaining session won’t take place unless there’s some chance it will work. And both sides admit they have a lot of work to do to get negotiations back on track.