We Have Legitimate Questions, and We Have HOPE!

SDEA’s declaration that the TA has passed brings one real piece of good news: 1,480 educators will be recalled sooner than later. While we truly believe that these recalls would have occurred without the deep contract concessions we are now taking, a fundamental and founding platform of the Breakfast Club has always been NO layoffs. We could not be happier that our union is now close to that goal (with the exception of 41 ECE members, as well as roughly 200 educators who remain laid off from last year).

But to be clear: The events of the last few days in no way mark an end to the journey we have started together.

Our work to achieve NO concessions and a strong and transparent SDEA does not end with this TA. The School Board has already begun to lay the groundwork for yet another repeat of this year’s layoffs-vs.-concessions ploy next spring, and the reality is that our current SDEA leadership has just demonstrated that it will work.

We Have HOPE

We have HOPE that SDEA members will engage in the real organizing work required this summer and fall to ensure that our union doesn’t end up right back here again this coming spring. Our increased attention on SDEA’s leadership over the past few months must continue, and we must work to make sure that we have elected SDEA leadership whose actions are transparent — a quality that many members who spoke to us during the voting process believe has been lacking this spring (regardless of how they felt about the TA). Democratic unions are those with an active and engaged membership. 4,500 of us just showed that we are absolutely active and engaged. We need to STAY that way if we are going to ensure that our membership is never put in this unfortunate position again. Our union deserves better leadership. We as engaged union members are the only ones who can make that happen, and together we will.

We Also Have Legitimate Questions

We’ve received an influx of questions via emails, calls, and in-person conversations over three days of the voting process about the integrity of the election. We firmly believe that the Election Committee engaged in their best democratic efforts to ensure a clean election (see our voting summary post). Unfortunately, the Election Committee controlled only a small part of the process. We think it is important to share the questions raised with us over the past week about the voting process in order to ensure that we can all have absolute confidence in our future union elections:

  • Why was there no method for out of town members to vote, disproportionately disenfranchising more senior members and secondary teachers who are more likely to be traveling in late June?
  • Why didn’t SDEA hold any informational meetings about the TA prior to voting so we could have discussions face-to-face as union members, as has historically been the case before ratification votes?
  • Why did SDEA choose for the first time in memorable history to NOT have voters sign an external envelope, which ensures that the Election Committee knows that the ballots they are counting are the ones that members actually cast?
  • How many SDEA staff and leaders had access to the building/room where ballots were stored overnight for three nights? How many of those people were also on the overnight admit list?
  • Does the lock on the President’s door still match the lock on the Executive Director’s door (the room where the ballot box was kept)?
  • Did any SDEA/CTA/NEA staff touch any of the election ballots or envelopes at any point in the process (a prohibited act)?
  • Why were administrators called to an emergency meeting about the staffing implications of the SDEA TA early Wednesday afternoon, while SDEA didn’t even announce the results until 3:15 p.m.?
  • Finally, ask yourself, does a 2-to-1 approval rating resonate with what you experienced yourself?

With 4,500 members voting on this TA (an SDEA historical record of which we should all be incredibly proud), we would like to be able to trust the results. The level of doubt hanging over the voting process makes it hard to celebrate what should be a real validation of the democratic process. It is worth noting that a 66% approval is by far the lowest in SDEA’s ratification history, and signals an unprecedented level of discontent with SDEA’s leadership. Generally, ratification votes pass with a 90% or higher approval rating. Even a 2-to-1 voter approval ratio demonstrates a lack of faith in SDEA’s concessions bargaining team and leadership, and reflects the real concerns that members shared with us about SDEA’s leadership over the three days of voting, no matter how they intended to vote.

The SDEA Board needs to immediately clarify our elections procedures to prevent similar distrust from occurring in future votes. The problem is NOT the Election Committee; the problem is the SDEA bylaws and room for abuse that they create. Members who are out of town should not be disenfranchised. Internal ballot envelopes should always be contained within an external signature envelope so we know that the ballots being counted are the ones actually cast. SDEA ballots should not be accessible to SDEA staff and leadership overnight. These issues MUST be resolved before SDEA elections occur for open Board seats this fall, so that we SDEA members can all have faith that our elections are clean and secure. The SDEA Board is scheduled to meet on July 11. Join us in calling on the SDEA Board to take up these bylaw changes as their first order of business on July 11, and to ensure that these changes are approved before the elections to fill open seats in the fall.


The work to make sure we don’t end up right back here again in nine months begins today. We can’t wait to work together with all of you to return democracy and strength to our union. The level of energy and commitment demonstrated by the Breakfast Club volunteers over the three days of voting has been truly inspiring. We have accomplished SO MUCH together over the past three months, and we are going to continue to grow from here. Here’s our summer project: invite your friends to sign up. If every single one of us recruits one new friend this summer to join our shared efforts, we CAN be effective in accomplishing our goals of a strong and democratic SDEA!

–The Breakfast Club Action Group

6 thoughts on “We Have Legitimate Questions, and We Have HOPE!

  1. I don’t know how to post to your blog, so I’ll leave it as a comment to your most recent post. pb.

    I emailed this letter to the SDEA Board and Bargaining Team


    The vote is in. SDEA leadership can claim a large victory. Democracy, no matter what Mr. Freeman observed was not how I would characterize what happened. How could we disenfranchise eligible voters who had planned trips and bought non- refundable airline tickets by not allowing for absentee ballots? I know of one colleague who was unable to cast a vote and who knows how many were denied such an opportunity. Denying one vote is too many and certainly is not democratic.

    I am a 34-year veteran of San Diego Unified and was planning on retiring in 2014. I am also on the losing side of the vote that brought back nearly 1500 teachers most of whom will receive their step salary increases next year. I want you all to know what I will lose in addition to the pay cuts we take the next 2 years.

    I used the worksheet from STRS to calculate my final compensation, the highest amount earned per month during my teaching career. Had we left the contract as written, my final compensation per month would be, conservatively $523 per month more. Projecting over time means I will take losses $125,000 over 20 years or $175,000 over 28 years.

    I know there are those who will say why are you being so selfish? We saved 1500 jobs.

    My answer is I am at the end of my career and can’t make up large amounts of what was guaranteed income. To the 1500 I say good luck and save all you can, for next year there will be more cuts and this agreement doesn’t prohibit the district from laying you off again. We could’ve broken the layoff cycle; instead we now replaced our raises with an agreement that can be broken by the threat of layoffs unless we concede on health care benefits. Adding insult to injury we won’t even have the right to strike.

    Worst of all our profession has lost. Unfortunately income is an indicator of the level of respect one receives and now we are surely to be last in pay in the county. How will young teachers pay off their student loan debts?

    I urge all young teachers become involved in SDEA, protect your wages and benefits or you may find yourself in a situation similar to mine, 30 years from now.

    Peter Burrell

    Serra High School

  2. I think the “Union Tribune” and “Voice of San Diego” need to have this comment sent to them. The public needs to understand the dire consequences veteran teachers are now facing due to this agreement. It is blatant disrespect to veteran teachers who have been paying dues for MANY years!
    We have to keep saying this until people understand the hit we have taken.

  3. Let’s talk “REALITY” shall we?

    The “REALITY” is that I will lose $500-$800 per month, in addition to the $300 I already lost two years ago when I agreed to a pay cut to help SDUSD meet its projected budget crisis!

    I have bills to pay, children to get through college and a mortgage.

    It is not a good contract for ALL teachers. If I sent you a “REALITY CHECK”, it would bounce today, tomorrow and when I am supposed to retire in 10 years.

    Promises were made to teachers who received pink slips and there will still be lay-offs.
    These empty promises to pink slipped teachers were a major reason this agreement passed.

    In addition, “MORE REALITY,” is that teachers on the traditional school calendar were on vacation and unable to vote in this “sudden” SDEA election. The year-round schools were all able to vote as they were in town. An online ballot or the usual mail-in ballot was not available. Do you smell anything funny yet?

    Why do we continually take money from the teachers? Where are the administrative concessions? Why not sell district property? How about closing those schools with a staff of 5 teachers? Quit stealing from the pocketbooks of teachers!

    16 years ago I went on strike for SDEA. We fought for “Rights and Respect.” We lost everything we gained this past week with this agreement.

    I am a veteran teacher of 25 years and I have a Master’s Degree. I care about my students and I am passionate about my job. This upcoming year will hold a huge pay cut and next year health benefits for teachers will be on the table. The YES vote has started an unstoppable domino effect.

    Oh I know, I am only a teacher and asking for an honest wage and healthcare is too much! I have summer vacation! What else do I need? Even though the educational level of teachers in the private sector is much more with stock options and bonuses! I did not take the vow of poverty when I became a teacher either. Is making a decent income and living in a modest home too much to ask?

    Teachers who voted YES to this agreement did not understand the dire consequences that will follow. The district lies, SDEA lies and the people who educate and nurture the future of this city have been left in the dust AGAIN alone and forgotten.

    “REALITY” in simplest form: TEACHERS GOT SCREWED. Any questions?

  4. Another reality…there is a third group of 83 (low seniority) of us who are not being recalled (no budgeted positions), apparently due to those in Leave Status. So “all” of us being recalled, is definitely not my reality.
    I am calling, emailing, etc., anyone who will listen, because I am not the kind of person who stays silent…thanks for reading about my reality, and the reality of 82 others.

  5. One week has passed since I sent my emails and I have not received at the very least acknowledgements from any of the bargaining team members or board members (I did get 2 automatic out of the office replies). There is no sense of urgency on their part to answer any of our concerns. Mr. Freeman’s idea of democracy, is on their terms only. By not responding to our emails they keep us in the dark and present a picture of false SDEA solidarity to the media. We have lost more than we’ve gained and no one at SDEA has admitted it’s so.
    Peter Burrell

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