As more than a few of you have pointed out to us, you haven’t heard much from the Breakfast Club these last few months, so we’re briefly breaking our silence to check in.
What have we been doing? We’ve been purposefully stepping back to allow our new SDEA President, Lindsey Burningham, time to fulfill her big campaign promise: to win a strong contract ASAP, and to make our union membership united again. Our members spoke pretty clearly in the last election, and like it or not, we seem to be split pretty much down the middle. Burningham and her “Team Unity” slate promised to change that.
So how is she doing?
Let’s start with an overview of what’s going on with other unions in California.
UTLA, our sister union in Los Angeles, is demanding a 17.6% salary increase and has made no bones about the fact that they are willing to strike to get it. They made that demand last spring and they have not backed off it one inch. LAUSD countered with a 2% raise and 2% bonus for this fiscal year, another 2% the next, and another 2.5% the year after that. UTLA is saying that’s not good enough. They hit the ground running this August with their newly elected union leadership, built a massive organizing campaign that is shaking up the city school by school, and they’re on the verge of ousting their anti-teachers union Superintendent John Deasy with their member organizing power.
That’s not all that’s going on in LA. Anyone following the Fight for 15 campaign to raise the minimum wage all over the country? The biggest victory in that fight so far just happened in LAUSD. The classified union, SEIU Local 99, just bargained an across-the-board $15 minimum wage for over 20,000 classified workers who currently make as little as $8 to $9 an hour. Most classified workers in LA Unified will receive between 20% and 90% increases in their pay in just two years! Now that Prop. 30 has passed, the money is there. It’s just a question of whether or not our unions will be strong enough to fight for our share. (By the way, remember the SDEA Executive Director who bargained us our 7% raise back in 2010, only to get pushed out by Bill Freeman and his friends on the Board so he could give the 7% raise back? Well, that’s the same guy who just bargained the $15 win for SEIU Local 99.)
UESF, our sister union to the north, is currently demanding a 21%raise over the next three years. Their district, SFUSD, has offered an 8.5% raise over three years. With tens of millions coming into our large urban districts every year for the foreseeable future, an 8.5% increase is pathetic, and San Francisco’s teachers are willing to fight to get more. In June, SFUSD declared impasse, and San Francisco teachers have voted to authorize a strike to get their fair raise.
And speaking of strike, our brothers and sisters to the south are doing exactly that right now. And it’s working! Their district was threatening to impose a 6.5% salary cut. Instead the district canceled the meeting where they were going to vote on it. The last offer their district had on the table was a 2% raise for this year and a 1.5% raise for next year. San Ysidro teachers are saying no way, and will stay off the job until they get the raises they deserve.
So Where Are We?
While our big urban counterparts are making double-digit raise demands, SDEA made an initial salary demand of 6.5%. Note that in bargaining there really is nowhere to go but down following your initial demand. And after months of bargaining, what has SDEA compelled our district to offer us for a salary increase? ZERO.
Teachers in San Francisco are asking for a 21% raise. Teachers in LA are asking for a 17.6% raise. And teachers in San Diego? We are asking for 6.5%. While UTLA has set the stage for a battle between their demand of a 17.6% raise and LAUSD’s offer of a 6.5% raise plus a 2% bonus, SDEA has set the stage for a battle between our demand of 6.5% and SDUSD’s offer of 0%.
Is it fair to compare SDEA to UTLA and UESF? We think so. State revenue in LAUSD and SFUSD, just like in SDUSD, is pouring in like never before. The economy is improving, Prop. 30 has kicked in big-time, and the new Local Control Funding Formula means even more money for urban school districts like us. According to our own union’s bargaining petition right now, SDUSD is getting $75 million new money this year. If unions in Los Angeles and San Francisco can make big demands, why can’t we?
Regardless of where you land on the often-heated internal SDEA political spectrum, we can’t as union members stand silently by and let the district dictate our futures and the futures of our families. We need a bold goal and bold leadership to make positive change happen. And just like UTLA, we need to back up our demands with non-stop member action.
We’ll do our part. B-Fasters are serving in leadership roles all throughout our union now. We’re on the Board, we’re on the Organizing and Political Involvement and other committees, and we’re working the union’s organizing plan at our schools. But our new president needs to do her part, too.
Our suggestion? In keeping with our sisters and brothers around the state, we believe the best first step to get our members behind a real and effective contract campaign is for SDEA President Lindsay Burningham and the SDEA Bargaining Team to go to the district immediately with a real (and realistic) double-digit salary demand, on par with the 17-21% raises that the other big urban unions are demanding. SDEA’s initial offer has locked us in so we can’t go higher this year. But the district is asking for a three year contract, meaning that we can absolutely counter with a longer term contract with a bigger raise, just like the other big urbans. Plus, our team had better not treat our 6.5% opening offer as a starting point and bargain down from there. With $75 million in new money, 6.5% should be our bottom line, and we all need to dig in and fight for it. That is what will finally bring our pay up to what we deserve, and truly “attract and keep the best and brightest.” That is where our president needs to lead our union. It really is that simple.
Long story short, if we’ve been waiting for a window of opportunity, this is it! We need strong leadership from our union, and we need it NOW. We know our membership is ready for the fight. Let’s see Lindsay Burningham and our SDEA leadership make it happen!