Sacramento's teachers union to strike over pay, staffing

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California teachers with Sacramento’s unified school district will strike on Wednesday after attempts to negotiate with the Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD) have reportedly failed. 

The Sacramento City Teachers Association (SCTA) says the strike is a result of a “severe staffing crisis,” a financial “priorities problem” and issues with health benefits. 

In a Tuesday release, the 2,500-member group explained that district negotiators left a Monday meeting “to caucus” and never returned, forcing a state mediator to call off the bargaining session in their absence. 

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“The district has misplaced priorities and no sense of urgency,” SCTA President David Fisher said in a statement. 

The SCTA said that an independent review by a fact-finder chosen by both parties under the auspices of the California Public Employment Relations Board sided with the union on staffing and wage issues. 

The district said it had to review the report, but it allegedly refused to address staffing, and the SCTA said it violated ground rules set by the mediator in releasing its proposal in a press release. 

The SCTA said that the district’s bargaining team demanded a massive rollback in educators’ health insurance benefits that would force employees to pay up to an additional $12,000 per year for coverage and would use health care savings to fund a “small wage increase.”

“The district now receives over $20,000 per student per year and has a record reserve fund of $125 million dollars. But, rather than use available funds and increased state support to retain and recruit teachers and staff, the district continues to propose concessions,” the teachers wrote. “Meanwhile, SCUSD is short 250 teachers, over 100 substitutes, and 400 school staff. Every day, 3,000 to 5,000 students are warehoused in auditoriums or forced to double- or triple-up in classrooms due to a lack of staffing. Nearly 600 students who have applied for independent study because they are unable to attend school in-person, receive no instruction at all.”

In its own release, the SCUSD said Tuesday that mediation ended Monday shortly after 10 p.m. and that mediators joined a meeting with the district at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday. 

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The district said that at around 8:30 p.m. it learned through media reports that SCTA had concluded the mediation and the mediators ended their meeting with the district negotiations team at 8:36 p.m.

“The district’s negotiations team remains ready to continue negotiations with SCTA, and has offered to continue bargaining throughout the day on Wednesday,” SCUSD wrote. 

Comparatively, SCTA tweeted Tuesday that negotiations broke off at 8:15 p.m.

According to the district, its proposal includes 100% health coverage through Kaiser at no cost to employees, a proposal to pay 80% of the cost difference between a Kaiser health plan and a HealthNet plan for one year for employees currently enrolled in HealthNet who choose to continue HealthNet coverage. The proposal also offers $3,000 a year for employees who already have health coverage in lieu of receiving coverage through the district.

There is also an ongoing 2% salary increase, additional paid days for professional learning and increased pay for substitute teachers and nurses.

“Given that SCTA and SEIU are moving forward with a strike, we remain very concerned about our students, their families, and our entire community,” said Christina Pritchett, president of the SCUSD Board of Education. “The current proposals to increase compensation are a reflection of what we can currently afford in our budget. We urge SCTA to return to the bargaining table and give these proposals to increase employee compensation due consideration.”

The strike will last until an agreement is reached.

According to KCRA, Tuesday night was the cutoff before members of the SCTA and Service Employees International Union Local 1021 strike, with the district saying it will close all schools and cancel all sports and extracurricular activities.

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“This is a painful and difficult decision to make, especially when our students have experienced so much trauma and disruption to their learning over the last two years and recognize the ripple effect that school closures have on our entire community,” SCUSD Superintendent Jorge Aguilar wrote in an email. “During this difficult time, please remain in community and know that we will do our best to meet the needs of our district community.”

The station noted that the district had outlined a plan on Monday to provide meals for students who rely on them and that before and after-school child care programs that operate at K-6 school sites will be open during “normal hours.”

CapRadio reported on March 18 that the district had declared an impasse with SCTA in December over COVID-19 policy negotiations and announced it would not lay off any teachers for the 2022-23 school years in March.

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