Successful Petaluma strike lands teachers contract four months later
Nearly four months after hundreds of teachers and other certificated employees in Petaluma City Schools walked picket lines on May 24 to protest the administration’s unfair labor practices and policies harmful to quality education, the union won a contract on September 18.
“The regressive bargaining of the administration, in which they repudiated a class size limit that we had already agreed to, was the last straw,” said Sandra Larsen, president of the Petaluma Federation of Teachers. “Increasing class sizes is not the way to achieve a quality education in Petaluma schools.”
Larsen reported that 94 percent of teachers went out on strike on May 24. Since then, Petaluma teachers have been “working to rule” and the union visited all worksites in the district. “We’re strong and the district knows we mean business,” Larsen concluded.
High school science teacher Lee Boyes said she participated in the strike to encourage fair labor practices. Boyes wanted to move forward this school year “with a better environment for teaching and learning.”
No classes were held at most sites, while students were brought together in large groups, tended by substitutes. Many parents walked the strong picket lines in support of the teachers and came to a noon rally with their children.
Teachers were clear about why they were picketing. “I’m sick and tired of this toxic environment created by 16 months of minimal negotiation progress, lack of respect, and all the unfair labor practices that feel intentional and mean-spirited,” said Elyse Vossburg, a speech therapist.
Said elementary Spanish teacher Jennie Eubank, “We need to act now or we can expect this same negative experience throughout all our future negotiations.”
Members of Local 1881 were joined at a spirited rally in front of the district administration offices and a march to Walnut Park by parents, community supporters and members of other unions.
This was the first walkout the Petaluma Federation has staged since its founding in 1969.
The Sacramento Jobs Corps Union got more good news when the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s decision that its employer had violated the National Labor Relations Act when it banned the union president from the training center and refused to hire five incumbent employees to avoid bargaining with the union. The local received pro bono support from AFL-CIO Legal Department.
United Educators of San Francisco is boosting member activism and parent outreach during its contract campaign. The union visited 69 sites in the district and is posting member support photos from worksites on Facebook.
The El Rancho Federation of Teachers expanded its union strength when it welcomed previously unrepresented mental health workers and program specialists into its unit before bargaining a new salary structure to benefit all.
A team of UC-AFT Riverside librarians met with library administrators to negotiate the effects of a planned reorganization and reached an agreement that provides notice for changes in work location, preserves the right to negotiate over unforeseen effects of the reorganization, and retains work within the bargaining unit.