District, Teachers Reach Deadlock

 

The 550-member Alameda Education Association (AEA), the union that represents the city’s public school teachers, says that its negotiators have reached an impasse in contract talks with the Alameda Unified School District (AUSD). The union has turned to the Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) to step in and moderate.

According to the union, after 12 months of bargaining, AUSD has “never budged on its monetary offer, and even refused to settle dental benefits and class- size limits for special-education classes, saying the money for those had to come out of the teachers’ pay raises.”

“The district and the union have been negotiating since April 2017. Last spring, (the school district and teachers) ratified a retroactive raise of one-half of 1 percent and a one-time payment of 1 percent for the 2017-18 school year,” AUSD stated in a press release.  

According to the school district, the “two bargaining teams are largely in agreement on a 5 percent salary increase for 2018-19. Where they disagree is on the salary increases for 2019-20 and 2020-21.  AEA leadership has asked for guaranteed salary increases in those years.”

Based on current projections, the school district “believes it cannot now guarantee raises in the second and third year. In addition, bargaining year-by-year has allowed AUSD to slowly but steadily decrease the gap between AUSD salaries and the county average.”

“AUSD teachers are the lowest paid in Alameda County, a fact the district office acknowledges.Teachers have asked to be brought up to county average across three years, yet AUSD has offered just 4.5 percent for the current school year and nothing guaranteed for the next two years, not even Sacramento’s promised cost-of-living adjustments,” the union states.

On Jan. 23, AEA launched a community outreach campaign called “AEAnchors Away!” 

Union president Judith Klinger said at the time that the teachers were pressing the school district to bring teachers’ pay at least the average pay that teachers earn in Alameda County. “The union is striving to make teachers’ salaries a top priority in the 2018-19 AUSD budget,” Klinger said at the inauguration of the union’s campaign. 

On March 19, teachers gathered to protest their pay. They carried signs as they made their way down Webster Street and on to Island High School and the school board meeting. School board member Gary Lym told the teachers that school districts that pay higher salaries than AUSD have fewer facilities than AUSD (“AEA Teachers Lead March to Protest Pay,” March 22).

Lym also said that AUSD’s average class size is 18. Districts with higher salaries have larger class sizes — 22 on average. He did agree that there is “an imperative to raise teachers’ salaries.” 

At that same meeting, board member Anne McKereghan blamed the state of California for “not giving school districts enough money to support salaries and programs that are good for students.” 

In a recently released press release from the union, Klinger stated that the school district is trying to build raises on teachers’ backs, something she called “a bad strategy.”

According to Klinger, over the past seven years, AUSD has continued to forecast budget deficits. “Yet at the end of each year, (the district has) millions in unanticipated revenue.”

Klinger says that “it’s time to change the budgeting priorities and put employees first. We need the help of an outside mediator to try and find resolution and reach a settlement agreement that can bring Alameda teachers up to average.”

If PERB certifies AEA’s request for an impasse determination, the agency will assign a neutral mediator to try to help the two teams come to agreement. Both teams are expected to continue to bargain in good faith during this period.

If the parties can’t come to agreement with the help of a mediator, the two teams will enter into “fact finding” in which a panel reviews the arguments and proposals of both sides and then provides a recommended course of action. Mediation and then fact finding can take several months.

“As we continue to follow the process for negotiations, we remain hopeful that we can come to agreement with our labor partners,” stated Board of Education President Gray Harris. “All of us agree that raising employee salaries is a priority.”