Classified employees seek new contract


February 2, 2023

Classified staff at Wahkiakum School District have been without a contract since August, and with negotiations at a standstill, mediation is scheduled for their next meeting in February.

“We’ve had quite a few meetings, Haanah Ohrberg said. “It’s not going anywhere. We are just getting the same offer from the district. It’s not enough.”

Ohrberg was selected to represent the Wahkiakum Education Support Professionals union, and is a member of the classified staff at WSD, which includes all employees outside of certificated teachers and administrators. They are the paraeducators, office staff, food service, bus drivers, custodians, maintenance, technology, and food service employees.

“The district is preoccupied with the lawsuit, which we support,” Ohrberg said. “We know our facilities are way behind, and we agree that this is really important. But our contract has been expired since August and it’s going into February and it is a very small group of people and it would not cost the district very much to settle the way we asked.”

She said they were offered a 5.5 percent increase, which was the exact amount the state was giving, but with the high inflation rate and lower wages at Wahkiakum than at other comparable districts, the group would like to see a flat dollar amount for every position in their bargaining unit, to make sure that regardless of whether an employee is at the low end or the high end of the pay scale, they would get the same increase.

“We have a lot of single parents, single people, who are in these positions and they have other jobs they have to supplement with, they have to pick up custodial work after their regular job during the day just to try to make ends meet. It’s not even close to a living wage job,” Ohrberg said.

One position starts at $15.17, which the state minimum wage has surpassed for what Ohrberg says is the second time.

‘We’ve never had a problem in the past,” she said. “It’s just come to the point where people are struggling to feed their families. Everyone is feeling that. Look at what the state’s inflation rate is even at. That increase is nowhere near enough to cover that, and it’s not costing the district any money. In our mind, they don’t want to invest in us.”

She hopes when they go back to the table in February, staff will be presented with an equitable offer so they can settle.

“That’s our goal is to get this settled,” Ohrberg said. “But also in a manner that supports our staff.”

The Wahkiakum School District Board of Directors was asked to comment.

“We are absolutely concerned about all of our employees, and we are focused on a fair, equitable, and sustainable solution,” said their statement. “As elected officials in our community and stewards of tax dollars spent on public education, we are committed to a fair and sustainable agreement.”

A petition can be found at


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