Clarkston School Dist. and CCA deadlocked in bargaining for contract

CLARKSTON, WA - A local union and the Clarkston School District are having difficulties hashing out a contract.

Contract negotiations between the Clarkston Classified Association, a group made up of learning assistants, and the Clarkston School District are still deadlocked after nine sessions of bargaining, two of those involving a mediator.

"We're just asking for a living wage for our members," said Gustafson.

CCA Member Communications Coordinator Angie Gustafson said the union walked away from Monday's mediation unsatisfied because they want to see a substantial increase in pay for years two and three of their contract. The CCA rejected the district's proposal of a lump sum payment at the end of years two and three, stating it wasn't a large enough raise.

"We would like to settle with the district," said Gustafson. "But we needed to make it a sufficient increase for our members next year when the insurance goes up dramatically. Our members will not be able to make ends meet with the amount of increase insurance is going to cost everyone."

Superintendent for the Clarkston School District Darcy Weisner counters Gustafson's statement by saying that teaching assistants are hired as part time employees.

"Can a person live on that?," said Weisner. "Is that a living wage? That's really up to that person who makes that money to decide. It's more than minimum wage and the state of Washington has the highest minimum wage in the United States."

The CCA also argues that the school district has a substantial reserve fund that could be used to help pay for their salaries.

"I will say that I don't believe it's a lack of resources or money because our district has a $3.5 million reserve," said Gustafson.

"If I take all of that money out and give all of it towards salary and benefits, I'm not going to have anything left," said Weisner. "Over the life of the contract that we are signing with this group, how can we maintain and sustain the increases that they are asking for?"

Weisner contends that the increase in wages he proposed Monday, which is a 6.4% jump in the first year for the CCA members is a fair offer.

"They don't work eight hours a day, they don't put a forty hour work week in," said Weisner. "The wage that I proposed that would have put them at 6.4, is I believe the second highest, for educators, within our region."

The two groups ended the meeting Monday with the intention of coming back to negotiations with a mediator at the end of January.

The CCA has been working without a contract this year while the two sides have attempted to reach an agreement.