Forestville teachers will know by 7:30 a.m. tomorrow (Monday) if they are on strike or in school as district managers and board members finally agreed to a negotiations session that can avert a strike.
On Friday (August 10) the Forestville Union School District (FUSD) received official notification that the Forestville Teachers Association (FTA) will be on strike Monday, August 12, over unresolved disputes concerning professional pay and health care issues. The FUSD bargaining team agreed to meet at 6:30 in the morning, just an hour before the strike will officially start. If all goes well, FTA leaders say, they can quickly come to an agreement and teachers will go to work. If not, picket lines will be ready to go and teachers will be on strike.
“We will not waiver in what is best for our students, for our teachers and for our community,” said FTA President Gina Graziano, noting that many teachers no longer trust district management. “We hope for the best and plan for the worst. So if there’s a settlement, awesome! If not, we are on the picket line and making our voices heard.”
“We expect the FUSD attorney, the CBO and the district bargaining team to do their homework,” she added. “They need to come prepared with a proposal that will avert this strike. This is their opportunity to do right by teachers and students and this community. We encourage them to do what they can to avert this strike. We’ve tried and tried and tried. At this point – it’s up to them.”
Graziano told parents and supporters at a BBQ fundraiser today (Sunday, Aug. 11) that the “strength and solidarity of our collective action is the reason this district finally agreed to meet with us. It is your efforts and support of teachers that is helping us achieve an agreement that attracts and retains the best teachers for our students.”
This will be the first strike in Sonoma County since 1980, when teachers in Sonoma Valley went on strike for two days (January 22-23) and Santa Rosa elementary and high school teachers went on a 36-day strike (November 14-December 19). FUSD has 16 teachers and serves some 300 students.
“We don’t want to strike, but we will for our kids,” said FTA President Gina Graziano. “We wanted to settle our contract dispute, but this district has unfortunately made clear that students are not a top priority Teachers feel differently. FTA teachers are standing up for our students. We are going on strike because that is the only option we have left to save our schools.”
“What’s truly tragic is that the district can more than afford our proposals,” FTA Bargaining Co-Chair Ryan Strauss said. “FUSD’s choice not to meet with us and refusal to negotiate in a timely fashion was disrespectful. Their choices mean we are losing students to nearby districts and we are losing our educators that leave for better paying jobs. FUSD needs to save our schools by investing in our kids and not the reserve.”
FTA and FUSD have been negotiating since November of 2017. An independent state-appointed chairperson oversaw a hearing to review the contract negotiations and the impartial chair made specific recommendations that supported the teachers’ proposal. Currently FTA is asking for a two year contract, with a 5% salary increase each year “on schedule” rather than a bonus, and they want enhanced health care benefits for their families.