Teachers authorize strike if deal not reached

Union, district remain at odds over pay raise, health benefits

Gilroy Teachers Association members and supporters picket in front of the Gilroy Unified School District headquarters on Arroyo Circle May 17. Gilroy teachers have been working without a contract since June 2017.

If a new contract agreement cannot be reached over the summer months, Gilroy teachers have voted to strike at the start of the 2018-19 school year.

In a June 6 vote of 544 Gilroy Teachers Association members, the union reported that 84 percent were in favor of strike authorization until the union demands are met.

The GTA “authorized a strike action in the event that the fact-finding phase of negotiations does not yield an acceptable agreement,” according to a June 11 announcement. “If a strike occurs, it will likely take place shortly after the start of the 2018-19 school year.”

The first day of student instruction is scheduled for Aug. 16 at the eight elementary, three middle and four high schools.
The GTA, whose members have worked without a contract since the previous one expired in June 2017, and district leaders have been in an impasse in contract negotiations since failing to reach a compromise by the end of March. The two sides continue to be engaged in a “fact-finding process” through the state’s Public Employee Relations Board, after attempts to reach a settlement through mediation failed.

The “certificated” —or teaching—staff, amongst the lowest paid in Santa Clara County, is asking for a 6 percent pay raise and for the district to contribute an additional 5 percent for health benefits.

“Because we are one of the lowest paid districts in Santa Clara (County), GUSD struggles to hire and retain teachers,” the union’s release states. “This is bad for students.”

According the GTA statistics, 78 teachers (nearly 14 percent of union members) have resigned since the start of the 2017-18 school year, a pattern that has remained consistent over at least the last three school years.

The district’s offer remains a 2 percent pay increase and no additional contribution to the health care package. Officials have detailed that anything more would zap their reserves, according to documentation on gusd.k12.ca.us.

GUSD’s starting salary for a first-year teacher is set at $50,743, according to edjoin.org, the education recruiter site used by California school districts. Other nearby local school districts with higher starting salaries, include Morgan Hill Unified School ($54,989), San Jose Unified ($54,958) and East Side High School District ($55,349). At both San Jose Unified and East Side, full-time employees pay no out-of-pocket premiums for health benefits.

“GTA is hopeful that a strike can be averted,” the press release concludes. “GTA believes that the GUSD school doard is ready to push administration to make changes in its spending that will allow for an improved salary and benefits package.”
Gilroy teachers and supporters have picketed prior to the last two school board meetings as well as at their respective school sites before the start of each school day since the negotiations stalled.

California Teachers Association President Eric Heins sent a June 2 video message to GTA members regarding their contract situation.

“When you’re asking for a salary increase, when you’re asking for the district of Gilroy to make teachers a priority, you’re doing it for the students, to attract and retain the best and brightest for your kids,” Heins said. “It’s time that the district in Gilroy makes you a priority because you make the students of Gilroy a priority.”

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