San Diego teachers vote for concessions to “save” jobs

The San Diego Unified School District and the San Diego Education Association reached an agreement on June 28, recalling pink slips for 1,481 teachers, nurses, and counselors in exchange for massive concessions on the part of the teachers. The terms of the deal will set a dangerous precedent, as SDUSD is the second-largest school district in California with 119,000 students.


In March, the district had issued more than 1,600 pink slips to teachers—including some 20 percent of its elementary teaching force—to offset a projected $122 million deficit in next year’s $1.1 billion operating budget. Following the district’s seniority-based layoffs, virtually the entire staff at some schools, mostly located in impoverished neighborhoods, would have been displaced. For example, at Fay Elementary School in City Heights, 26 of 27 teachers would have been laid off.


Of the district’s 7,038 teachers eligible to vote, 4,501 cast ballots from June 24-26, the biggest turnout since the teachers’ last strike in 1996. The labor pact needed at least 2,251 votes, and it passed 3,033 to 1,468, more than a two-to-one ratio.


The results mean teachers will forego a series of negotiated pay raises totaling seven percent set for the 2012-13 school year. The school board promised these raises two years ago. The district will continue the automatic “step and column” pay raise scale, which is based on experience until teachers reach the top of their salary scale.


Five unpaid furlough days will be continued for a third year through the 2013-14 school year. Another 14 furlough days will be added if Governor Brown’s November tax-initiative ballot measure fails. In other words, the school year will be shortened from 180 to 161 days, the equivalent of almost an 11 percent pay cut.


A $25,000 retirement incentive will be offered to the first 300 teachers who are older than 55 with more than 25 years’ experience. This paltry not-so-”golden parachute” means that teachers will retire in poverty after decades of experience.


Another less publicized but sinister term of the pact is the establishment of a joint committee, made up of four representatives each from the board and union. The union/management corporatist formation begun in the 1970s by the United Auto Workers is now being promoted in the field of public education.


According to the Voice of San Diego, a website supported by several venture capitalists, “This [joint committee] is a biggie…. That marks a big shift for a union that for the last few years has refused to hold formal, regular meetings with the district. And it marks the culmination of the union’s softening stance toward the district.”


SDEA President Bill Freeman took the voting results as a personal victory. “Today is a good day. I hope this vote means teachers support the agreement, and they support my leadership.”


In recent union elections, the Voice of San Diego welcomed the victory of the openly collaborationist Freeman faction over the so-called hardline Zombro faction. Actually, Zombro was responsible for extending furlough days for a third year, foregoing raises, and changing health care benefits in the current contract. Both factions of the union are for concessions, actively work to maintain their privileged positions and dues base, and block any fight of the teacher layoffs.


Nationwide, the Obama administration has led an incessant campaign of vilification of teachers. Within this situation, the union has played a critical role in pushing through this devastating contract, which imposes enormous cuts on the teachers themselves. The teachers must turn to the working class as a whole, fight the layoffs and attacks on public education by fighting for the independent mobilization of the working class to break with the Democrats and Republicans and fight for socialist policies.