Mukilteo teachers threaten strike over teacher wages

Mukilteo teachers and supporters rally for increased wages in Everett (KOMO Photo)

EVERETT, Wash. -- Mukilteo teachers are threatening to strike if they don't get a tentative agreement over teacher compensation.

About 300 teachers and supporters staged a rally Tuesday so district leaders could see and hear them.

Teacher dressed in matching red T-shirts carrying homemade signs and 'Fair Contract Now' placards chanted "we want a contract!" as they circled the sidewalk outside of the Pilchuck UniServe Council Office in Everett, where both sides were set to meet.

Mukilteo Education Association President Dana Wiebe insists they are determined to raise teacher salaries this year in the district.

"The membership gave the bargaining team the authorization to call a strike if necessary," said Wiebe.

"We are not asking for new money, we are asking for additional money, we want a distribution of funds the district already has," said teacher Jodi Hillbrant-Johnson, who has been teaching Special Needs students at the district for four years.

They want "McCleary money."

That's new state dollars given to school districts as part of the landmark McCleary decision. The lawsuit forced lawmakers to increase basic education funding, which includes teacher compensation.

Teachers in Edmonds just got a big bump from McCleary money.

"If our neighboring district would pay them roughly $10,000 more to start in their district, why wouldn’t you go to Edmonds? And we don’t want that to happen," asked Wiebe.

Wiebe says other districts got raises too.

Debbie, who has been a teacher for 25 years, says without a bump in salary, they'll be at a competitive disadvantage.

She says that's bad for teachers and students.

"I'm feeling a little sad 'cause one of my coworkers jumped ship to Edmonds because they got their pay raises," said Debbie, who currently teaches first grade in the district. "I'd hate to lose more coworkers or even have to make that decision myself because I love working in Mukilteo."

The district negotiators would not comment on camera, but a spokesman told KOMO News they value their teachers, and are willing to consider teacher compensation. After Tuesday's session, the spokesman said the district has agreed to another meeting with the teachers union leadership on Friday even though he added the teachers have one more year remaining on their current contract.

"Re-opening the contract is our right," said Wiebe.

When asked about the strike possibility, the district spokesman underscored that contract has a no-strike clause.

"We don't want to do that; we just want a deal," said Wiebe.

No agreement was reached Tuesday, and both sides will meet again Friday.

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