Red and blue shirts among staff members: what do they mean?


Signs in classroom windows throughout Tigard High demonstrate staff members’ unity in supporting the negotiation process with the district.

On September 22, 2022, Tigard High School teachers wore red in solidarity with the Tigard-Tualatin Education Association (TTEA). This was an opportunity for staff members to visually show their support in TTEA’s collective bargaining process with the district. Collective bargaining is the process where two groups, employees and employers, negotiate contracts to come to a consensus on employees’ wages, benefits, hours, and other working conditions. These contracts stay in place until they are renegotiated to better reflect current financial realities.

Locally, teachers have been working without a contract. The most recent contract expired in June and teachers continue to work on the expired contract and its set of agreements. Frederick Holtz, IB psychology teacher and member of the TTEA, gives insight on why contracts expire.

“The reason for the expiration date is that the world changes. As we know right now, there’s remarkable inflation. The cost of living is going up and so whatever we were being paid before may be worth a different amount as far as what it will do for us now,” Holtz said. “That’s why contracts expire because the economy changes, the world changes. […] It’s time to come to a new agreement with the new economy.”

The goal would be to agree on a contract before the current contract expires, however, sometimes this doesn’t happen because disagreements can arise between unions and districts. While the union’s bargaining team and school board is negotiating new agreements for a contract, teachers will continue to be working with the old terms of the expired contract. The wages and benefits from the prior contract carry over to the new period until the union and school board collectively agree on refreshed conditions.

The color red has been a staple symbol in the TTEA. This isn’t the first time Tigard High has seen teaching staff make a visual statement through clothing and posters outside classrooms that state: “Working without a contract.”

Teachers aren’t the only ones affected by contract negotiations. Oregon School Employee Association (OSEA) is the labor union that represents classified employees. Classified employees consist of custodians, food service, Head Start staff, transportation workers, library staff, and other staff members. Classified staff are also in negotiations with the district. In order to acknowledge this, the TTEA and OSEA wore blue to stand up for classified employees all throughout the district.

“[On] September 21, we wore all blue and that was to show solidarity for the union of OSEA, which is the union that is also bargaining right now. They’re bargaining separately but we were trying to show that we are also supporting them. We’re in solidarity with them,” Matthew Wilson, sophomore English teacher, said.

The red flannels and blue shirts that the THS community has seen at school is an act in support of the teaching and classified staff in the district. Sophomore English and theory of knowledge teacher, Michael Rogers, talked about the importance of supporting people who contribute to education and how the effects of this situation should be recognized by community members. He said, “Education is so vital for the health of the community. If you don’t support the people that are in that really important job of education then I think the community in general suffers. I really do believe that. […] We are part of this public good where the effects go well beyond the walls of the classroom.”