The teachers union at Sacramento City Unified School District announced Friday that its members have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike.
The Sacramento City Teachers Association spent three weeks collecting votes, and said turnout was 70 percent of its 2,500 members. According to the union, 92 percent voted to approve the strike.
The move adds to the challenges faced by the district, which is under the threat of state takeover as it wrestles with a $35 million budget gap.
The teachers union said it will call for a strike if Sacramento City Superintendent Jorge Aguilar, board President Jessie Ryan and the district “persist in their unlawful behavior and avoid taking measure to correct their unlawful behavior,” according to a statement.
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The union accuses the district of refusing to honor their collective bargaining agreement, making unilateral changes, failing to send representatives to the bargaining table and meeting at unreasonable times and places.
The union also called the district’s recent decision to potentially lay off hundreds of employees unlawful and in violation of California’s open-meeting law, the Brown Act. The union says many of its decisions happened in closed sessions and the Brown Act guarantees the public’s right to attend and participate in meetings of local legislative bodies.
The district in a statement to The Sacramento Bee called the grounds for the strike “unfounded.”
“A strike would put the district on the fast track to state takeover which would only hurt our students, families and employees,” the district’s statement said. “We instead continue to encourage SCTA leaders to come to the table to start negotiations with a neutral facilitator.”
If the union goes forward with plans to strike, the votes will go through the union’s executive board, and if enough members vote yes, under its contract the union can then call for a strike date.
No strike date has been established, according to a letter from the union to Aguilar. Instead, it has asked to meet with a committee selected by the district to avoid a strike.
This is not the first time the union has voted to strike. In September 2017, about 80 percent of SCTA members voted to strike over contract negotiations. While the walkout was imminent, the district and union reached an agreement on a new contract brokered by Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg.
Steinberg on Friday again offered to facilitate talks. He tweeted a joint statement with Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna urging renewed negotiations between the district and the teachers union. “We stand ready to mediate,” Steinberg said.
“Sacrifices will have to be made,” the statement by Steinberg and Serna said. “Otherwise, we face a state takeover and draconian cuts that will hurt both our students and district employees. This worst-case scenario could erode the quality of our schools and harm our community for generations.”
“We are willing to meet with all the parties with or without an official state mediator at any time over the days ahead,” the statement said.
The last teachers strike in the district was in 1989.