Teachers strike in Sacramento, as Minneapolis walkout continues

Teachers and other school workers in Sacramento were among the thousands who walked off Wednesday's job.

Teachers strike in Sacramento, as Minneapolis walkout continues


 

This was the second major U.S. school district to experience a stoppage in work over staffing and pay issues this month.

The dispute in Sacramento and Minneapolis where teachers walked off March 8th, comes as school districts across the country deal the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

Union workers across the country are taking advantage of tight labor markets to regain some power that they felt they had in recent decades, when unions shrank in size. Experts expect to see more labor strife in the wake of the pandemic.

After negotiations with the Sacramento City Teachers Association, and the Service Employees International Union Local 1021, the Sacramento City Unified Schools District cancelled classes Wednesday at its schools. This affected 43,000 students.

Unions representing 1,800 school workers and 2,800 teachers voted in overwhelming numbers earlier this month for strike action. Teachers claim Sacramento is facing serious staff shortages, despite the fact that it has access to federal funding and surpluses in its district budget.

David Fisher, president of the teacher union, stated that "the district has misplaced priority and no sense for urgency."

These labor actions are part a nationwide trend that began with the pandemic," said Steve Smith, spokesperson for the California Labor Federation which includes SEIU Local 1121.

"Workers are fed up with poor treatment and low wages. Smith stated that many of these workers are vital workers who have stepped up to help keep the economy going during difficult times.

Bradley Marianno is a professor of education policy from the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. He studies teacher unions, collective bargaining and teacher strikes. He expects educators to make more noise after two stressful years.

Mariano stated that tight labor markets create bargaining powers, and added: "School districts say this: "It is difficult for me to staff my classroom right now." This perception gives teachers unions the power to bargain higher teacher salaries.

Teachers in Mount Diablo, San Francisco Bay Area, reached a tentative deal on Saturday. Teachers in Sonoma County's Cotati–Rohnert Park district returned to work last week after a six day strike. Spokespeople from the two largest national educators' Unions stated that they did not know of any other teacher strikes.

According to the Sacramento district, the proposed 2% pay raise is all it can afford. It also offers to pay 100% for health care coverage.

Minneapolis is still reeling from the strike of more than 4,500 educators, support staff and other workers. Negotiations have often been bitter. Although there has been incremental progress in the areas of pay, class sizes, and mental health supports for 29,000 district students, there have not been any breakthroughs.

Shaun Laden, the leader of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers said Tuesday, "We're sticking it out until we get it done."

Union leaders insist that Minneapolis is stocked with cash thanks to pandemic relief funds. Administrators claim they aren’t. According to the district, the "last, best, and final offer" that it made this week would need at least $10,000,000 in budget cuts.

Kim Ellison, Chair of the School Board, said it was a "robust offer" that substantially raises wages and should be sufficient to "to find an agreement that works both for each party and gets our kids back in school as quickly as possible."

Marianno stated that while the federal funding is improving school districts' budgets, administrators are reluctant to use the short-term funds to fund long-term raises.

Minneapolis officials have made it clear that the $70 million of federal aid they received in their budget was one-time money and that it could be used to pay long-term obligations.

Darrell Steinberg, Sacramento Mayor, helped to break the 2017 stalemate between teachers & district. He urged both sides to immediately end the strike.

"Kids are not attending school enough. Their mental and educational health are at risk. They will continue to suffer, if the adults keep fighting among themselves," Steinberg stated in a Wednesday statement.

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