Unions – representing 2,800 teachers and 1,800 school workers – voted overwhelmingly earlier this month to strike.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Schools in the City of Sacramento Unified School District (SCUSD) are closed Thursday for the second day of the teachers’ strike, according to district officials.
The strike in Sacramento became the second major U.S. school district this month to see a work stoppage over pay and staff shortages as a teachers‘ strike in Minneapolis entered its third week.
“As of Friday, it remains to be determined, but we will do our best to communicate as soon as possible tomorrow,” Superintendent Jorge Aguilar said of the resumption of classes.
The disputes in Sacramento and Minneapolis, where teachers left on March 8, come as school districts across the country grapple with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and limited resources. Across the country, unionized workers are seizing the opportunity presented by tight labor markets to reclaim some of the power they feel they have lost over the past few decades as unions have shrunk in size and influence. And experts expect to see more labor disputes as the country emerges from the pandemic.
The Sacramento City Unified School District canceled classes Wednesday at its 76 schools, affecting 43,000 students, after negotiations with the Sacramento City Teachers Association and Service Employees International Union Local 1021 broke down. Unions – representing 2,800 teachers and 1,800 school staff – voted overwhelmingly earlier this month to strike. Teachers say Sacramento has severe staffing shortages despite federal funding and a district budget surplus it could tap into.
“The district has misplaced priorities and no sense of urgency,” said teachers’ union president David Fisher.
These labor actions are part of a trend across the country that began with the pandemic, said Steve Smith, spokesman for the California Labor Federation, which includes SEIU Local 1021.
“Workers are really fed up with poor treatment, generally little safety protections, low wages. Many of them are essential workers who have really stepped up to keep our economy going through the toughest times possible,” Smith said.
Bradley Marianno, a professor of education policy at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas who studies teacher unions and collective bargaining, said teacher strikes were on the rise before the pandemic, and he expects to see educators make more noise again after two stressful years. .
“Tight labor markets create bargaining power,” Mariano said, adding, “School districts are saying this, ‘It’s hard to staff classrooms right now. And real or not, this perception creates bargaining power for teacher unions to negotiate higher teacher pay.
Elsewhere in Northern California, teachers in the San Francisco Bay Area’s Mount Diablo District reached a tentative agreement on Saturday. In the Cotati-Rohnert Park district of Sonoma County, teachers returned to work last Thursday after a six-day strike. Spokesmen for the two largest national educators’ unions said they were unaware of any further teacher strikes on the horizon.
The Sacramento District said the 2% pay raise it was offering was what it could afford. It also offers to pay 100% healthcare coverage.
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, who helped break the standoff between teachers and the district in 2017, urged both sides to do everything possible to end the strike immediately.
“The children have missed school enough. Their education and mental health are at stake. They will continue to suffer if adults continue to fight each other,” Steinberg said in a statement Wednesday.
As educators made their way to the picket lines, a senior, Phoenix Leri, of McClatchy High School spoke out, expressing his support for his teachers who are fighting for better working conditions.
“We will support you every day you are here on strike,” Leri said. “We will demand that the board and (Jorge) Aguilar give you fair pay for the work you do here.”
Erin Macy, a teacher at SCUSD, said she didn’t think she would strike on Wednesday.
“I’m sad this is happening of course, but I’m here to fight for my students, for my family and for myself,” Macy said. “We deserve better as teachers and the district has shown us complete disrespect and we deserve respect.
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Tension between Sacramento teachers and school district puts pressure on families