These Tri-Cities school workers may strike

Kennewick paraeducators and supporters rally Tuesday near the school district office.
Kennewick paraeducators and supporters rally Tuesday near the school district office. Tri-City Herald

Kennewick School District paraeducators, cashiers and licensed practical nurses are headed toward a possible strike over pay.

The workers agreed at a meeting Tuesday night to hold a strike vote on Jan. 17.

“We reviewed the district’s ‘best, last, and final offer,’ and it simply does not reflect a livable wage,” said Brandy Strait, a Kennewick paraeducator and co-president of the local union chapter, in a statement.

“Most paraeducators in the Kennewick School District won’t make even $17 an hour during their entire career. Our employer is simply refusing to support us,” she said.

The district said in a statement Tuesday that, “We are disappointed that our paraeducators did not approve the school district’s offer this evening. The offer puts the paraeducators’ raises in the same range as our other classified bargaining groups and is comparable to our neighboring districts.”

The 600-plus workers are represented by Public School Employees of Washington SEIU Local 1948.

The workers and the district have been negotiating for months.

Similar negotiations over teacher and support staff wages have played out in other districts across the state since the summer, prompted by an overhaul of Washington’s education funding system that included a $2 billion infusion for educator pay statewide.

All school districts in the Tri-Cities have settled with their teachers unions, and many support staff contracts also are settled here, although Richland still is bargaining with its paraeducators.

In that case, the district and paraeducators are in mediation.

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