Education

Sacramento teachers are considering a strike. District calls it an ‘intimidation tactic.’

Sacramento teachers march over contract dispute

Members of the Sacramento City Teachers Association rally in protest over faltering contract negotiations outside a Sacramento City Unified School District board meeting on March 16, 2017.
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Members of the Sacramento City Teachers Association rally in protest over faltering contract negotiations outside a Sacramento City Unified School District board meeting on March 16, 2017.

Sacramento City Unified School District teachers are voting on whether to strike for the first time since 1989.

The Sacramento City Teachers Association and the district have been in negotiations for about a year and remain in disagreement over compensation, both sides say. A decision about whether to strike won’t be made until at least Nov. 3, union officials say.

About half of the district’s 2,400 teachers have voted on the strike authorization and 98 percent are in favor of it, said union president David Fisher. The vote asks teachers to allow union leadership to call for a strike if an agreement can’t be reached.

“We’re pretty united,” Fisher said. “It’s a pretty rare thing that we’ve gotten to this point.”

Sacramento City Unified teachers are working under a contract that expired in December.

Earlier this week, representatives from both sides met with a negotiator from the state Public Employee Relations Board to come up with a recommended contract agreement. The report is expected by Nov. 3.

The union won’t strike before the report is done, SCTA Executive Director John Borsos said.

District spokesman Alex Barrios said the strike vote is an “intimidation tactic” intended to force the district to make concessions.

The district is making plans to handle a strike in the event it goes forward, he said. The district has about 600 substitute teachers and would need another 100 to 200 more if a strike is approved, he said.

The district doesn’t anticipate that all teachers would refuse to work in the event of a strike, Barrios said. Classes will continue as normal, he said.

Barrios said the district has agreed to raise teacher pay by 6 percent, including 2.5 percent retroactively for the previous school year and the remainder for this year.

Fisher said the increase would still leave district teachers at the bottom of pay rates at 23 similar school districts in the state.

Barrios said the union “cherry-picked” comparison districts from the Bay Area and Southern California with a higher cost of living than Sacramento. The district’s salary survey shows its pay is competitive in the region.

Barrios also said the union has fought the district on a proposed reduction of health-care costs. Fisher said the union last month agreed to work with the district to find ways to reduce costs while maintaining the same benefits.

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