GREAT FALLS — On Monday, members and supporters of the Great Falls Association of Office Personnel stood outside the Great Falls Public Schools’ district offices to demand better pay.
The Great Falls Association of Office Personnel is a local branch of the Montana Federation of Public Employees. The union helps office staff within the public school system have a voice.
“We are in the process of negotiating and we have been since July,” said Ashlie Clark, Administrative Assistant at Lincoln Elementary School. “Our team has come to the district with many proposals since July and they just haven't moved forward. So we're hoping with this next mediation that we can come to a fair contract agreement for everybody that we're all happy with.”
Picketers held signs with messages of support for the office workers, saying things like, “Without Fair Pay I Can’t Stay” and “My Mom is Worth More." Some drivers passing by honked their horns in support of the movement.
“I would not be able to fight for myself to get a raise with the district,” Clark said, “So it's amazing to have a team behind me that are super smart and informed, and they know they can direct us in the right direction. And it just feels good to be a part of a team fighting for the same cause.”
The cause Clark is referencing is a higher rate of pay.
Currently, the starting wage for the office workers is between $13.59 and $16.72, depending on the job. At other schools around Montana, that rate is between $16 and $20.
“We work really hard for the district, and we take really good care of our administrators and our teachers and our families and our students,” Clark said, “And we just want to be paid accordingly. We love our jobs and we're good at our jobs. And we're the first persons, first people on the scenes.”
Monday night was the first night of the “Great Falls Picket for Fair Pay!”, with more picketing scheduled for Tuesday, November 28th at 4:30 P.M.
The goal of the informational picket sessions is to show their commitment to the cause and come to a deal before a strike is necessary.
However, if no deal is reached, the office workers will not be letting up any time soon.
“We're going to keep fighting,” Clark said, “We're an amazing, strong group of people who are really passionate to get some fair pay. It's been a long time coming.”
For more information on the Great Falls Association of Office Personnel, click here.