Battle Ground school board threatens to withhold pay for striking teachers

Striking teachers in Battle Ground wave to traffic Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, their 10th day on the picket line. (KATU Photo)

The Battle Ground Education Association calls a school district threat to withhold pay for striking teachers a "scare tactic."

Battle Ground's striking teachers spent their 10th workday on the picket lines Tuesday, as word spread of the district's deadline that it will withhold pay if teachers don't return to class by Monday, Sept. 17.

The dispute over how much state money the district is promising teachers took a dramatic turn during a contentious Monday night school board meeting.

After moving to a quieter room, Battle Ground's school board voted unanimously to withhold teacher pay if teachers don't return to classrooms by Monday.

"Participation in a strike or concerted refusal to perform services will result in the district suspending the payment of salary or wages for all employees involved in a strike or work stoppage," said board member Tina Lambert as she read the resolution for withholding teacher pay.

"It’s pretty much put on us," said School Board President Ken Root, "to have to stop payment at a certain, certain amount of time that they have not -- our teachers have not worked."

The board based its resolution on state law that requires public entities to pay contract workers for “… the labor performed as described …” and that, “No claim shall be paid without such authentication and certification.”

"You know, we're in a situation we've never been in before, this board with this strike, so ... the whole situation is, is complex," said Battle Ground Public Schools communication director Rita Sanders.

"It's a scare tactic," said Battle Ground Education Association Vice President Marina Heinz. "We're looking at it as a scare tactic."

Negotiators for the district, union and state mediators met in Olympia Tuesday.

Officials with the Washington State Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) hoped a change in locations might lead to progress at the bargaining table.

The teachers' union says its bargaining team went to Olympia prepared to stay and negotiate through Friday.

"We're holding together and standing strong, backing our team. We've got their backs. We've had their backs this entire time, and we're not backing down," said Heinz.

Classes in the Battle Ground School District are canceled for Wednesday.

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