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  • David Sipos

Teachers Ratify Long-Awaited Union Contract

Members of the Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU) voted overwhelmingly to adopt a new contract on Dec. 13.

After months of negotiations, Mayor Muriel Bowser, DCPS Chancellor Lewis Ferebee and the WTU announced a contract agreement, the first since 2019, last month.

The contract includes a 12 percent salary increase over four years and a 4 percent retention bonus. Additionally, the agreement preserves all benefits offered to teachers.

Teachers have been operating under a 2016 contract that lapsed in 2019. Since then, terms have remained frozen, without adjustments in teacher pay. Because the tentative agreement applies to the 2020-2024 collective bargaining period, pay raises will be applied retroactively to the past two years. The WTU will have to return to the negotiating table next year for a post-2024 contract.

DCPS and WTU leadership hailed the agreement as a strong contract and celebrated its support among teachers. “Beyond pay and benefits, it was important for this agreement to reflect the respect the District has for teachers and the work they do,” they wrote in a joint statement when the contract was announced. “We believe this tentative agreement is fair for teachers and good for students.”

A DCPS spokesperson directed The Rookery to this statement when asked for further comment.

Many of the WTU’s 5,000 members had expressed growing frustration with the lack of a new contract. On Nov. 17, teachers staged an after-school walkout to protest the stalled negotiations, demanding a contract to keep up with the rising cost of living and to solve staff shortages. DCPS hopes the 4 percent retention bonus will encourage teachers to stay at their jobs.

“[We were] showing our displeasure with the contract negotiation that had dragged on for more than three years,” said Arthur Klawender, a Walls chemistry teacher who serves as the union representative from the school to the WTU.

Mr. Klawender voted for the new contract. “It seemed reasonable, nothing surprising or unpleasant,” he said. “Teachers approved it; I think it’s good.”

Mr. Klawender was not on the negotiating committee, but added, “I would guess there were things we asked for that we didn’t get…but that’s sort of how negotiations work.”

The contract will now go to the D.C. Council for final approval. At the time of publication, the Council had not voted on the document.


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