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Bulletin Board, NEA-Retired, May 2024

The latest news on NEA-Retired members around the country.
Published: May 2024
Oregon retirees support Portland teachers on strike at a picket line
Eileen Wende (third from right, back row) and other Oregon retirees support Portland teachers on strike. Credit: Marleen Wallingford

Oregon Retirees Help Striking Teachers Win! 

When Oregon’s Portland Association of Teachers (PAT) went on strike for the first time in history, Oregon Education Association-Retired (OEA-Retired) members walked the picket line in solidarity, rallied alongside them, and helped provide critical financial support. 

The Portland educators were fed up with inadequate pay, lack of planning time, crowded classrooms, and extreme temperatures in schools.

Their 15-day strike ended in November with big wins, including a 13.75 percent cost-of-living raise over 3 years; 410 minutes of guaranteed planning time each week for elementary and middle school teachers; additional mental health resources; and an agreement from the state to address unhealthy classroom temperatures, among other improvements. 

“Our role was to do everything in our power to support the striking educators, who had put so much on the line—their jobs, the financial security of their families, as well as the education of their students,” says OEA-Retired President Eileen Wende. 

In addition to putting their “boots on the ground,” the retirees were able to help striking educators make ends meet. 

Back in the 1980s, the Oregon Education Association (OEA) voted to assess each member $10 annually to create a statewide Crisis Relief Fund. The assessment was discontinued when the fund reached $10 million, but the contributions were invested, and the fund’s value increased substantially over time.

Marleen Wallingford

During the strike, Wende and OEA-Retired At-Large Board Director Marleen Wallingford formed a committee with local Retired president and OEA-Retired Board Director Al Rabchuk that reviewed and approved grants to members facing financial hardship. 

“It was extremely empowering for OEA-Retired members to be so instrumental in this successful strike,” Wallingford says. “And the emergency fund played a big role in keeping morale high even when negotiations seemed to stall.”

—Janet R. Mednik

Thrifting for Her Union

Corley Byras

Thanks to the steadfast work of retired educator Corley Byras, a hospice store in Augusta, Maine, has been transformed into a secondhand clothing and merchandise boutique. 

Each day, the Androscoggin Hospice Thrift Store draws about 100 shoppers and generates up to $2,000 in sales. Byras’ union has also benefited from her marketing skills, as she curates “Fifty FantasticItems” to be raffled annually. The proceeds go to her union’s political action committee, which supports candidates who are friends of public education.

“It’s important to me to help make the world a better place, whether it’s people who want a good deal or who are going through tough financial times,” Byras says. “Both my work in the thrift store and my work for the union helps people, and that’s all the motivation I need.” 

—Janet R. Mednik

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