Madera Unified Teachers Association (MUTA) members voiced their support for their bargaining team and told their union leaders to move forward in their fight for their students, and for their own families by voting overhwelmingly to strike, if need be. During a negotiations update meeting, Madera teachers clarified the union’s proposals and noted the possibility of a strike. A straw poll of the nealy 600 members attending resulted in a nealry 100% “Yes – will strike if necessary” vote.
Negotiations failed after the Madera Unified School District (MUSD) refused to show up for the last mediation session. The two will now present the rationale for the proposals to a fact-finding panel, the final step in the negotiations process under the Educational Employment Relations Act (EERA). At issue are a modest salary increase and keeping the health benefits that are helping to attract and retain qualified teachers in Madera. “We’ve done our homework. This district can afford our proposal and will have millions left over in their reserves. There is no reason for us to be at an impasse. It’s disheartening,” said MUTA President David Holder.
MUTA is asking for a 4.75 percent salary increase, and wants to prevent caps on health benefits. “Teachers have told us they work here for the benefits. They feel the proposal is like an attack on their children and family. Besides, we would never ask for something that the district could not provide.”
Indeed, the district is not claiming an inability to pay. MUSD proposed a 1 percent salary hike, five extra days of work, and a cap on health benefits. Madera teachers were shocked by a proposal that includes a take-back on the benefit that keeps families healthy. The two proposals cost approximately the same amount of money, leaving MUTA leaders to wonder if this is some type of power play, which puts students and families at risk.
“This move reveals the district’s misplaced priorities. We hope the Madera Unified School Board will take responsibility as the elected officials for this district and direct the district negotiators to make students and families a priority by accepting our proposal, which will help attract and retain the quality teachers our students deserve,” said Holder “We want MUSD to offer the best education possible to our students. And we want teachers to be treated fairly and respectfully.” And just as teachers in Los Angeles and Oakland drew a line in the sand for their students and families, the 1,070 members of MUTA say they are, too, he added.
MUTA and Madera have had a collaborative relationship since 2012, when a contract dispute nearly came to a strike. But MUTA helped the district to predict future health costs by agreeing to an escalator, which has already been paid for this year.
“Madera teachers are standing up for our students who deserve caring, qualified teachers in their classrooms to provide quality instruction. The fact is, great teachers will go elsewhere unless we attract and retain them,” said Holder. “Health benefits help keep our teachers with young families here.”