Yuba City teachers plan to walk out Thursday over pay

The Yuba City teachers union announced Tuesday that its 700 members will go on strike Thursday, complaining that their pay is not competitive.

Dina Luetgens, president of the Yuba City Teachers Association, said in a statement that teachers don’t want to strike but are “overwhelmingly ready to do so to protect Yuba City’s public schools and students for years to come. If the superintendent and the school board think their disrespectful actions toward teachers will have no consequences, then we have news for them.”

The Yuba City Unified School District, about 45 miles north of Sacramento, has 13,300 students in 18 schools. The district said in a statement that it has “qualified replacement teachers” available to keep all schools open during a strike.

The teachers association filed an unfair labor claim over the summer and had threatened in recent weeks to strike, asking teachers last week to remove personal belongings from one school site. The state Public Employment Relations Board granted an impasse to the labor group in March.

Teachers association members voted in May to authorize a strike. Besides teachers, the group represents speech and language pathologists, nurses, counselors and school psychologists.

Luetgens said Yuba City teachers “already make 13 percent less than the state average.”

District Superintendent Nancy Aaberg said in a statement that the decision to strike ignores “the best interests of students and teachers.” Union leaders, Aaberg said, “chose to ignore an offer on the table” that would bring the top teacher salary in the district to $95,000.

A 13 percent pay raise for teachers would “decimate and dismantle everything the district has built over time,” she said.

In an interview, Aaberg said the district has “tried for a year to convince them that an agreement could be reached at the bargaining table.” She said the district has granted 5 percent raises for each of two previous school years and offered 3.5 percent for 2015-16 “over six iterations” intended to satisfy teachers.

The district is offering qualified substitute teachers $330 a day during the strike, according to Aaberg. The district’s traditional day rate for substitute teachers is $125, she said. A Craigslist ad posted by the district in August also offered mileage reimbursement for substitutes driving from more than 30 miles away.

But Luetgens said the proposals would not stop an exodus and a continuing teacher shortage.

“We can’t afford to wait,” the statement said. She said the district’s uncompetitive pay has prompted more than 74 teachers to leave for other jobs this school year.

Luetgens, in an interview Tuesday afternoon, called the offer of 3.5 percent deceptive because of requirements that teachers increase their workload by more than 3.5 percent.