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Board approves historic wage increase for custodians. Teachers and cafeteria workers will see COLAs and bonuses.

Portland Public Schools employees will get pay raises and many will see a $500 retention bonus this summer as part of contract extensions between the district and employee unions.

COURTESY PHOTO: PPS - Nutrition services employees at Portland's Harrison Park Elementary School serve student meals during a U.S. Department of Agriculture visit in March. Cafeteria workers are slated to get a retention bonus and custodians will get a 15% raise starting July 1, 2022.The Portland Public Schools Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday, June 28, to approve a contract extension that grants educators one-time retention stipends of $500, while including a 4% cost of living adjustment in the salary schedule. The pay bump takes effect July 1.

Nutrition services employees will also see the $500 bonus.

Angela Bonilla, incoming president of the Portland Association of Teachers, said the district's contract extension with teachers is a step in the right direction.

"With inflation nationally running at around 8% this year alone, we know that that 4% COLA is only a small step towards the compensation that educators need to be able to keep up with rising costs, especially in our city, and to be able to afford to live in our community," Bonilla told the board. "We know that it's crucial that our district offers compensation at least on par with other school districts in the area, in order to retain our experienced educators and attract the diverse and talented educators we need to fully staff our schools."

Along with cost of living adjustments, some employees will see their pay increase by up to 15%. According to contract agreements, custodial workers will get a 15% pay increase in new salary schedules, with additional increases among pay scale tiers. The Service Employees International Union contract also includes a 7% pay bump for nutrition services leads and a 19.8% increase for the nutrition service assistant position.

The pay raises come shortly after the school board heard from custodians who said they struggle to make a living wage while living in Portland.

In May, the union shared a petition for "safe and healthy schools" noting 50 unfilled custodial jobs at PPS and low pay.

"Starting wages of $14.40 an hour for cafeteria staff and $16.70 for custodians will not attract or retain quality workers," the petition stated.

PPS responded with a new one-year contract that gives custodians a major pay bump.

"We're proud to offer what we believe are the highest salary increases in the history of our negotiations with SEIU," Genevieve Rough, director of employee and labor relations for PPS, told the school board.

Greg Meyers, head custodian with PPS, said his team was grateful the district listened to calls for improved pay, but noted "work to be done" to address lingering issues.

"Over the past year, we still have a crisis within our department. We still have a struggle to hire people and retain them," Meyers said, noting the pay increases should help, at least for now.

"Everybody is really feeling the pinch because of the inflation that nobody expected to happen," Meyers added.

Non-union employees will also get a 4% cost of living adjustment and step increase in pay, for those who haven't reached the top pay scale tier. The pay raises were budgeted into the 2022-23 school year budget approved by the board on June 14.

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