Hours before their labor contract with the school district was to expire at midnight Tuesday, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and the district have reached a tentative deal, union chief Jerry Jordan said in a late-night email to his members.
“I am thrilled to inform you: we have a tentative agreement!” Jordan wrote.
No details of the agreement were available late Tuesday. Jordan said he would first present the deal to his union at a Wednesday night virtual members’ meeting, and would not share information about the proposed contract’s contents prior.
“Thank you for your patience, your fortitude, and your solidarity,” Jordan wrote to members. “I hope you can rest a little easier tonight.”
School district officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
Earlier, Jordan had signaled the two sides were far apart, telling members the PFT was “on the brink of a strike vote,” but Philadelphia School District and union officials spent all day at the bargaining table.
He had urged the PFT’s 13,000 teachers, counselors, school nurses, and school support staff to monitor their emails for news about a possible deal. That message to his members held a different tone than the communications the labor leader had released earlier in the day.
In a message sent to members Tuesday morning, the first day of classes for the Philadelphia School District, Jordan wrote: “It’s not looking good, because the district so far has continued to refuse a reasonable financial package and working conditions reflective of the work you do each day.”
“Let me be clear: We’re on the brink of a strike vote this evening,” Jordan said. “It can, and should be VERY easy for the district to avoid this. But they have to get serious, and now.”
The two sides began talking over the summer, negotiated all weekend, Monday, and Tuesday.
Jordan had urged teachers to use their lunch breaks and preparation periods to call Mayor Jim Kenney’s office to urge a fair settlement “before we take a strike vote tonight.”
Kenney, on hand for the first day of school at Powel Elementary and Science Leadership Academy Middle School in West Philadelphia, said he thought a deal could get done.
“I don’t expect we’re going to have a strike tomorrow,” Kenney said at the time.
Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. would not go into details about negotiations but said the two sides remained in active talks.
“We hope to have a resolution soon,” Hite said.
The PFT inked a one-year contract last fall with a 2% across-the-board wage increase and pay bumps for years of experience and education.
Philadelphia teachers are paid between $47,192 for beginning educators to $93,689 for “senior career teachers.” Salaries for paraprofessionals, the lowest-paid PFT workers, start at $15,010.
The district’s principals’ union also has a contract expiring Tuesday. The Commonwealth Association of School Administrators is not expected back to the negotiating table until later in the week.