Forestville Teachers Association (FTA) leaders say they are shocked that the Forestville Union School District (FUSD) managers came to the bargaining table yesterday so unprepared. Not only was a written proposal not presented, but the management bargaining team admitted they did not have board authority to respond to the teachers’ proposal and would have to go back to the FUSD school board for authorization. The next school board meeting is August 8th and teachers are set to strike on August 12th, the first day of school for educators.
“Enough is enough,” said FTA President Gina Graziano. “Teachers are our students’ most important resource. Our students are losing great teachers because FUSD managers won’t provide a living wage to teachers. Our students deserve better.”
The two sides have been negotiating for two years, FUSD managers initially proposed a zero percent salary increase to teachers, which was delivered by a contracted attorney. FTA says FUSD managers have been dragging out the process ever since. Yesterday’s negotiations session included FTA classroom teachers and FUSD’s new superintendent, the district’s attorney and two board members. Instead of averting a strike, teachers feel they now have no choice.
“Teachers are so tired of being disrespected. Being so unprepared is unprofessional and frankly, disrespectful. It wasted our teachers’ time,” said Graziano, adding that “you can’t put students first if you put teachers last.”
Teachers had asked district managers to do their homework prior to yesterday’s meeting and provide a written proposal. The purpose was to clarify mixed messages being sent by district managers and the new superintendent. FTA provided a written proposal that essentially accepted the state-appointed neutral fact finder’s recommendations, with the exception of language involved an off-schedule bonus in the final year of a three-year contract. The neutral fact finder recommended:
- Three-year contract starting that includes a 4% off schedule payment for 2018-19, a 5% salary increase with one day added to the school year for 2019-20 and a 4.5% salary hike for 2020-21.
- Complaint Procedure should remain in the contract.
- Health and Welfare Retirement Benefits should remain unchanged.
Teachers say they also have concerns over health care issues.
The FUSD managers told teachers they wanted a three-year contract to promote “labor peace” and they were not interested in in discussing health care or offering retroactive wages, as outlined in the Fact Finding report.
“In short, district managers want to financially penalize the teachers for the district’s unprofessional delays in bargaining for the last two years and they do not want to address the teachers wholly inadequate health care in the coming years,” Graziano said. “If district managers want labor peace for three years, FUSD needs to make it worthwhile by truly addressing the wholly inadequate pay and health care — and to treat teachers with respect.”
“Our negotiations goals are about achieving the best teachers for our students,” she added. “Our members are committed to achieving a fair settlement and are ready to stand up for our students.” She says FTA is meeting with parents to share concerns about how the FUSD’s refusal to invest in teachers hurts student learning. A rural TK-6 school district, FUSD employs 16 teachers who serve 265 students.
The two sides have been negotiating for two years and the current contract expired June 30. FTA members voted unanimously to go on strike if no agreement is reached once the bargaining process has been exhausted, which was following the completion of the impasse process under the Educational Employment Relations Act (EERA). Teachers chose August 12, the first day back for educators, as the strike date. Students start school August 15.
A GoFundMe Account has been set up to support Forestville teachers. The teacher unions throughout Sonoma County say they will support Forestville teachers by joining them on the picket lines, providing online support, contacting school board members, discussing the situation with possible substitutes, attending rallies, and posting “We Stand With Forestville Teachers” signs in homes and businesses.