A quick note:
Strike Fiction #2 "Do They Make Turkey-Flavored Ramen? Teachers Are Gonna Need It" was written in response to the Strike, and submitted to The Sinister Scoop anonymously. It is being posted by administrator Cat Voleur, out of solidarity for the strikers, but she does not claim credit to the story. Please enjoy.
Strike Fiction #2
Do They Make Turkey-Flavored Ramen? Teachers Are Gonna Need It.
At 8AM this morning (November 20th, 2023), the Portland Public School Board unanimously voted down a tentative agreement on a contract that would allow teachers to get back to work. This tentative agreement was reached after a 24-hour bargaining session. It was agreed to by members of the Portland Association of Teachers' bargaining team and the Portland Public School District's own bargaining team. Unanimous rejection with no explanation. (Between the time I wrote this and the time it was published, it was discovered that only 3 members of 7 were present at the meeting… further proof this school board doesn’t do its job.) We've been on strike for 20 days now, and we finally reach an agreement, and they vote it down with no explanation. This is a slap in the face. We're gonna slap right back.
Since there was no explanation of how the meeting went, one way or another, here is how we think the conversation went.
The members of the school board sit at their laptops, sipping on coffee, other things most likely, comfy and cozy in their homes while thousands of teachers are out on the streets freezing, while hungry and possibly cold students sit at home, waiting to be able to return to school, the safest place in the world for many of our students.
In their Zoom call, a lawyer pops up. He has no horns on his head, just dark circles under his eyes from bargaining all night. A relieved smile contorts his face, even manages to reach his eyes for once. He is proud of the work he and his fellow bargainers have done, squeezing the life out of schools, maintaining the status quo of collapsing schools that fail to serve the students. It's good to have pride in your work.
"We got it!" he announces.
The Board Members sit in their chairs, gazing out windows, playing on their phones. None of them knew how much work being on the school board would be. For them, it's just a stepping stone to something greater, a political career, a life doing nothing and getting something, the American Dream, which they choose to deny the students they've been charged with caring for.
"Let's see the slides," School Board Member #1 says. "We gotta hurry this up. They're gonna tell me how to make the perfect stuffing on Good Morning America."
The lawyer smiles, knows these people live busy lives. They've had it tough. Why, some of them actually had to go to the bargaining sessions themselves and have everything explained to them because they don't have the vocabulary to understand what's being said. It slowed things down, but in the end, it was all worth it. The strike is over. Dutifully, the lawyer goes through slide after slide, and most of the school board members even manage to pay attention—mostly. Fifteen minutes into the presentation, Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero shows up.
"What'd I miss?"
"Nothing, Guady," School Board Member #2 says. "You can go back to sleep."
"Cool." He disappears from the call, heads back to his bed and dreams of all the bonus money he'll make when students of color increase their scores by a whopping three percent! Three whole percent! Nineteen-percent to twenty-two-percent, the teachers can do that! Outside, a foghorn blows, and from his palatial mansion, he glances out over the San Francisco Bay, wondering if he'll have to fly back to Portland to sign this contract. He hopes not. They don’t like him there.
Back in the virtual board room, safe from those dangerous teachers with their chanting and picketing and wanting to teach, School Board Member #1 finishes writing a note about what herbs to use in their stuffing for the upcoming holiday, looks up to find everyone looking at them.
"Well?" the lawyer asks.
"Well what?" the board member asks.
"What do you think?"
Board Member #2, leans forward, says, "Fuck those teachers. You see what they did to my lawn? The strip of grass between my sidewalk and the road is all muddy now. Fuck 'em. This is what they get for picketing my house and trying to make me do my job."
The lawyer looks perplexed. "But we had an agreement."
School Board Member #3, elected because they look like someone who might care about students of color, says, "Nah, let 'em think about this over the holiday. When they're having ramen for Thanksgiving because that's all they can afford, we can get a better deal, wring 'em dry. Let's really stick it to 'em. Let 'em know they have no power."
"Do they make turkey-flavored ramen?" School Board Member #4 asks.
"Don't know; don't care. They wanna mess with me at my home, this is what they get." #2 says.
The lawyer cocks his head to the side, says, "Oooookay."
School Board Member #5 squirms in their chair, is about to speak up, but then notices the heartless, unconcerned look on all those Zoom faces, decides to give in and go with the flow.
"I don't really give a shit about the teachers or school. I'm on vacation. If we approve this thing, we have to do more work. I didn't sign up for this job to do work. I'm going to run for the State House next year, and then I'm out of here. Let's just reject this, and we'll come at it on the other side of the break." School Board Member #6 says.
Nods travel around the Zoom meeting, a digital version of the wave you might find at a sporting event.
"Yeah, let's give 'em time to think about what they've done. Smaller class sizes—pshh. I like large groups!" School Board Member #7 says.
"So let's put it to a vote?" the lawyer asks, knowing he can be a bit of a piece of garbage every now and then, but thankful he's not on the level of these school board members. "All those in favor of approving the tentative agreement, say, 'Yea.'"
The Zoom call goes dead silent, but for the sound of Robin Roberts speaking in the background.
"All those not in favor of approving the tentative agreement, say, 'Nay.'"
The lawyer's shoulders slump.
"Have a great vacation, everybody," #1 says.
One by one, the Board Members disappear back to their lives—comfortable, warm, planning out a feast for their children, excited to host their family members in the comfort of their own homes, their bills paid, already dreaming of Black Friday deals.
The teachers on the picket line care about schools and students. We were willing to sacrifice demands to get back to work—a lot of things. To have an agreed-upon proposal rejected shows what the PPS School Board really cares about, and it's clear that it's not a great education for our students. We need help at this point, as our strike approaches a month in length. We, the teachers of PPS, are not just fighting for improved Portland schools, we're fighting for improvements in all schools nationwide. We will not back down. The olive branch was extended, and they slapped it away. This is going to be a long fight, a hard fight. With that in mind, and with the holidays coming up, individual schools in Portland have started Go Fund Me campaigns to help some of our members pay their bills and buy food for their families. Go to the GoFundMe website, search for teachers, narrow it down using the location button to Portland, Oregon, and you'll find a list of schools to donate to. If funds are tight, and you want to help, give us a honk when you drive by us on the picket line, or, at the very least, give this piece a share. More eyes gets the prize. Portland's schools and our nation's schools will be better for it. This story is not endorsed by PAT. This piece was born out of the frustration with the powers that be, something we can all relate to. Relate to it. It is satire.