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Ridgefield teachers authorize union leaders to call a strike

The vote doesn't directly trigger a strike, but it gives union leaders the power to call one. The 2022-23 school year begins Aug. 31.

RIDGEFIELD, Wash. — Teachers and other staff in Ridgefield voted Monday to authorize a strike amid ongoing contract bargaining with the Ridgefield School District.

The vote doesn't directly trigger a strike or guarantee that one will happen, but it means the union's members have given permission for union leaders to call a strike if they decide it's necessary to reach a new contract agreement.

The current contract between the district and the Ridgefield Education Association expires Wednesday, which is also scheduled to be the first day of classes in the 2022-2023 school year.

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Following the most recent round of bargaining Monday night, the district issued a statement saying "Our priority is to start the school year on time. We want to provide fair wages while managing and maintaining our fiscal responsibility."

In a news release, the union said its team is "committed to reaching a fair contract agreement and avoiding disruption of the school year if possible."

The Ridgefield Education Association represents about 200 teachers and other staff in the district, and the members voted 92% in favor of strike authorization, according to a Tuesday news release from the union.

The members voted to reject the district's most recent contract proposal by a similar 92% margin. Negotiations have dragged on over issues like class sizes, teacher pay and support for special education, according to the union press release. 

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"We want a deal that makes sure students get the support they deserve, whether that’s through smaller class sizes and more individualized attention, easier and timely access to special education staff, or ensuring the people with the critical job of educating our kids can support themselves and their families," union Co-President Elizabeth Stamp said in a statement. "District leaders have not yet agreed to these priorities. Our membership sent a clear message that the district needs to get on board."

A copy of the district's most recent offer, posted to the district website, lists a proposed 5.5% increase in the wage scale for the 2022-23 school year and a minimum increase of 3% for each of the following two school years.

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