Did you know that we SDEA members are technically an employer? This is different than most teacher unions in the state, who have way less autonomy and are staffed by CTA (California Teachers Association) employees who take their marching orders at the state, not the local level.
This is because most CTA locals are what is called an “Option I,” which means everything they have, they get from the state level. And actually, more than half of our own SDEA dues dollars go up to CTA to subsidize operations at the state level and staffing at other locals around the state. Another portion goes to our national affiliate NEA (the National Education Association). That means that out of your $100 a month in dues, less than half stays here locally to provide the services you receive as a union member.
The reason SDEA can employ our own staff who are only accountable directly to us is that we’re what’s called an “Option II” CTA local. That means that we get to collect our own dues, have our own separate budget and accounts, and basically run our own shop.
That gives us great local power. But like Spider-Man says, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
SDEA as an employer has two main responsibilities: 1) To make sure we’re spending our dues dollars fairly and responsibly. 2) To honor the contracts we negotiate with our employees. Those are the same two things we expect from our own employer, SDUSD.
Like SDUSD, SDEA has an elected Board who are charged with carrying out those responsibilities. Unfortunately, like SDUSD’s Board, SDEA’s Board seems to be having a hard time doing so.
Our employees have the same basic protections in their contracts that we have in ours: Permanent status, discipline and dismissal only for just cause, and only with progressive discipline. “Just cause” and “permanent status” protections mean that the District can’t tell you out of the blue that a bunch of parent complaints came in all of a sudden and so you’re fired. The District has to go through the fair discipline process that is spelled out in our contract.
We too, as an employer, have to follow those same fair contractual steps: issuing warnings, telling our employees what they’re being accused of, allowing our employees to tell their side of the story, documenting their problems and giving them a chance to improve, taking into account past performance and evaluation records… all BEFORE moving to serious discipline or dismissal.
Honoring those contractual provisions IS NOT OPTIONAL. It’s not optional for our employer towards us, and it’s not optional for us, as an employer, toward our own employees. Yet last week, on May 2, the SDEA Board voted to do exactly that.
After placing our SDEA Executive Director out on leave for two months without ever once telling him why, the SDEA Board voted to ask for his resignation. He was never told what, if any, allegations were made against him. He was never interviewed or given a chance to tell his side of the story. He was never warned or previously disciplined in any way. In fact, he was nothing but promoted, given a stellar evaluation just last September, and given a permanent contract. And despite his perfect job record and history of success, he is being pushed out without ever once being told why.
That should be horrifying to anyone who has a permanent contract with due process protections… which is us. The SDEA Board basically took his legally binding, permanent contract, crumpled it up, and threw it in the trash. Take ten minutes to read the Voice of San Diego and you’ll see that this decision is purely political, and is based on the fact that he is an obstacle to SDEA leadership working with the District to open up our contract and give up concessions. That’s not how we’re supposed to act as an employer!
That takes us to the next part of being a responsible employer, which is spending members’ union dues dollars wisely. Obviously, opening our union up to the fiscal damages that will likely come with the Board’s egregiously illegal termination is foolhardy beyond belief. But another fiscal issue this highlights is the high SDEA staff salaries. Upon becoming Executive Director, he turned down a forty-thousand dollar salary increase that would have matched his salary to his predecessors, and instead took only a one-percent increase over what he’d been making. He has since pushed to further decrease his own salary and the salary of SDEA staff by negotiating nine furlough days. That might sound like a lot, but not when you find out what the top of the professional staff salary schedule is: $131,560 a year. That’s right. For some of you, SDEA staff literally half your age are making literally twice your wage.
This isn’t to say that our employees don’t deserve fair wages and benefits- of course they do. But there’s fair, and then there’s ridiculous. And it’s no small wonder he has some popularity issues with the staff when he directly attempted to reduce those ridiculous staff salaries.
So we call on the SDEA Board to do the same thing we’re calling on the SDUSD Board to do:
- Honor the contracts you negotiate with your employees.
- Be responsible stewards of your budget.
If you have opinions about our “role as an employer” that you’d like to share the SDEA Board, Contact them! These are our democratically elected representatives and the decision-makers of our union, so let’s make sure they hear our voices.