PORTLAND, Ore. – The left-wing activists leading the Portland Association of Teachers have been preparing – some would say hoping – for a teacher’s strike since they saw their radical counterparts in the Chicago Teachers Union lead a work stoppage in the fall of 2012.

strikechalkboardThey may soon get their chance.

KATU.com reports Portland Association of Teachers (PAT) members will take a strike vote next Wednesday. If the vote is successful – and all indications are that it will be – PAT leaders will be empowered to call for a teacher walkout, after they give school leaders 10 days notice.

The teachers’ strike would be the first in Portland’s history.

The union is upset that school leaders haven’t agreed to all the financial and work-rule demands that PAT negotiators insist be included in the new teachers’ contract. Contract talks have been going on since last spring.

PAT leaders have been trying to portray Portland school leaders as the bad guys in this drama so the community will rally to the union’s side during a potential work stoppage. But there’s no guarantee that will happen, as Portland officials have been very smart in how they’ve approached the contentious contract talks.

Not only have district leaders refrained from imposing a new contract upon the union (as is their legal right to do), but they’ve mostly agreed to meet the union’s demand that more teachers be hired so all teachers’ workload can be lessened. But still the union isn’t satisfied.

What’s going on here?

We believe the union’s public demands for more teachers and smaller class sizes is a smokescreen to obscure the fact that PAT leaders are really trying to stop Portland leaders from stripping language out of the teachers’ contract that restricts how school administrators can assign and transfer teachers.

Simply put, district leaders want to reclaim control of how their schools operate, and the union is fighting them tooth and nail. Even though Portland is a pretty left-wing city, most residents would probably agree that administrators shouldn’t have to jump through a bunch of union-imposed hoops to when making staffing decisions.

That’s our educated guess as to why the union is threatening to strike, although some reports indicate that PAT negotiators are willing to make concessions on this front.

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