Teachers union at Sacramento City Unified announces one-day strike for April 11

SCTA leadership proposes $60 million savings plan to SCUSD Board of Education

Nikki Milevsky, the first vice president of the Sacramento City Teachers Association, proposes a plan to save Sacramento City Unified School District millions at a Board of Education meeting on Dec. 13, 2018.
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Nikki Milevsky, the first vice president of the Sacramento City Teachers Association, proposes a plan to save Sacramento City Unified School District millions at a Board of Education meeting on Dec. 13, 2018.

The teachers union at Sacramento City Unified School District announced Tuesday its intention to strike April 11. The strike will last one day, according to union leaders, and is in response to failed mediation attempts between the district and the Sacramento City Teachers Association last Thursday.

The union met Tuesday evening, and ended with their announcement to go on strike to protest unfair labor practices, according to SCTA President David Fisher.

“We want them to honor the promises they made to students by honoring our contract, meet with us and the fiscal adviser, and obey the law,” Fisher said.

“This strike is unnecessary and will only hurt students, families and employees by putting the district on the fast track to a state takeover,” said district officials. “A state takeover will result in less money for our students and do serious harm to our city’s public schools for many years to come. Our students do not deserve to be put through the hardships that will be caused by this strike.”

The union’s decision came after Thursday’s six-hour meeting with a mediator from the State Mediation and Conciliation Service concluded with no progress, according to a statement by the teachers union.

The strike will affect more than 40,000 students in the school district.

The SCTA spent three weeks collecting votes for the strike, and said the turnout was 70 percent of its 2,500 members. Of those, according to the union, 92 percent voted to approve the strike.

This decision adds to the challenges faced by the district, which is under the threat of state takeover as it attempts to close a $35 million budget gap.

In a letter to Sacramento City Superintendent Jorge Aguilar last week, the teachers union asked the district to sign a written agreement seeking a meeting to discuss the SCTA’s budget proposal, and to abide by its current collective bargaining agreement and “use any savings from health plans to lower class sizes and improve services to students.”

In a letter sent Tuesday afternoon, Aguilar responded to the union’s terms with his own. Union officials said Tuesday evening that they had met and made their strike decision before they read the letter, but that Aguilar’s proposals would not have affected their plans.

In his letter, Aguilar proposed to meet with the union next week with the state mediator to discuss avoiding insolvency, and the union’s allegations of the district’s unfair labor practices.

But Aguilar stated he disagreed with the union’s interpretation of salary restructuring for mid-career teachers – a prominent issue in their ongoing dispute – which would cost the district approximately $7 million to $8 million per year, according to Aguilar.

“As you know, we disagree with SCTA over the interpretation of that provision and are waiting for an arbitrator to decide the issue,” read Aguilar’s letter to the union. “The district and Board of Education has and remains committed to providing for a salary restructure that does not exceed the District’s budgeted 3.5% cost for 2018-19 and have repeatedly stated this. “

Aguilar also stated that both parties need to negotiate a health plan savings. Aguilar said the two agreed to meeting July 2018 to discuss changes to the health plan, and the district could have saved $11 million to $16 million during the school year. No changes to the health plan occurred, Aguilar stated.

“This inaction on health savings has only resulted in the hastening of the District’s financial decline and inability to remain fiscally solvent for our students and families,” he wrote.

The district said it plans to submit a balanced budget to the Sacramento Office of Education at its June 20 Board of Education meeting to avoid a state takeover.

The teachers union said in March it would call for a strike if 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.”

In September 2017, about 80 percent of SCTA members turned out to vote for a strike over contract negotiations. Nearly 97 percent approved a strike, but when it was imminent, an agreement was reached on a new contract brokered by Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg.

The SCTA also held a vote for a strike in 2015, with the majority of teachers favoring one.

The last teachers strike in the district was in 1989.

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Sawsan Morrar covers school accountability and culture for The Sacramento Bee. She grew up in Sacramento and is an alumna of UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. She previously freelanced for various publications including The Washington Post, Vice, KQED and Capital Public Radio.