Sweetwater Union Teachers On Standby To Strike
Monday, March 17, 2014
Aired 3/17/14 on KPBS News.
The Sweetwater teachers union, that represents nearly 2,000 educators in the Sweetwater Union High School District in Chula Vista, overwhelmingly voted Friday to authorize a strike if an agreement is not reached.
The Sweetwater teachers union, which represents nearly 2,000 educators in the Sweetwater Union High School District in Chula Vista, overwhelmingly voted on Friday to authorize its board to call a strike if an agreement is not reached.
No walkout date has been set, but teachers remain on standby, said Roberto Rodriguez, Sweetwater Education Association president.
The main bargaining sticking point is over health plan contributions.
"Where the district is contributing about $5,500 less per member than what we had agreed to," said Rodriguez.
Teachers are also requesting a 3 percent raise and a reduction of class sizes by 10 students per class.
"During the financial crisis, we agreed to increase class sizes on a temporary basis," said Rodriguez. "That agreement ends at the end of this school year and the district wants to make those increases permanent."
Rodriguez said teachers were willing to make sacrifices for the last six years during the economic crisis, but that time is over.
“With Prop 30 passing, more money coming to schools than has been coming to schools in years, said Rodriguez, "I think what we’re asking for isn’t out of the question or out of the norm and the district hasn’t said that it’s not affordable to them. They simply have a different set of priorities.”
Sweetwater Union High School District officials have stated that any strike by the union while the parties are still negotiating is not protected by the law.
"The district will not tolerate conduct that is illegal, unprotected, interferes with, or disrupts the delivery of education to students," Superintendent of Sweetwater Union High School District Edward Brand said in a released statement.
"The Public Employees Relations Board has made it clear that such conduct by the union before the completion of statutory impasse resolution procedures constitutes and illegal pressure tactic and is a violation of SEA's duty to negotiate and participate in impasse resolution procedures in good faith," said Brand.
Union members are planning a rally Monday at 4 p.m. in front of the Sweetwater Union district office.
The Sweetwater Union school board was scheduled to meet Monday night, but that meeting is being postponed until next week, according to district officials.