By Sheri Williams
Sacramento City Unified School District teachers and classified staff are on strike, demanding the district provide enough teachers and staff to ensure every student is receiving a quality public education—and fighting for fair contracts for the hardworking women and men who keep schools and classrooms running.
The strike remained ongoing as of March 27, when the Labor Bulletin went to press, with thousands of union members and supporters on picket lines and marching every day.
In the days leading up to the strike, SCUSD employees and teachers voted overwhelmingly to take to the picket lines in protest of the district’s refusal to consider their demands for more hires, better pay, health and safety enhancements and maintaining existing benefits. About 97% of classified staff, represented by SEIU 1021, and 95% of certificated educators, represented by California Teachers Association, voted in favor of a strike.
“The SCUSD school board has been more focused on canceling school than negotiating ways to keep them open and staff them,” said David Fisher, president of the Sacramento City Teachers Association and a second-grade teacher.
Fabrizio Sasso, head of the Sacramento Central Labor Council, added that, “You can’t have a functioning democracy without good public schools.
“We judge our school systems by how our schools treat their employees and we judge them by how they impact our students,” Sasso continued. “So if we are judging by today, we can easily see that SCUSD is failing by every critical measure.”
The district has also failed for months to meet with SEIU represented staff.
“The District has yet to come to the bargaining table with SEIU Local 1021. Instead, they’ve spent their time putting out press releases full of misinformation and attempts to distract the public from the real issue: Sacramento City Unified students are not getting the education they deserve due to a staffing crisis,” said SEIU 1021 SCUSD Chapter President Karla Faucett, an 18-year District employee.
More than 10,000 students each day are without a permanent teacher, according to the teachers’ union, a problem made worse by the pressure the pandemic has put on educators. Each day, an additional 3,000 students lack a substitute teacher.
“We are on strike because every student deserves a teacher in their classroom in a fully staffed school. We are facing a severe staffing crisis in our district. It’s time to prioritize our students,” the union said in a statement.
The school board and the administration that reports to the board have had no sense of urgency, union leaders said. Friday, despite a request from state Superintendent of Instruction Tony Thurmond that teachers and district officials return to the bargaining table, the district refused.
The district also refused to meet with the union the weekend before the strike date. Instead, SCUSD informed the classified staff that they are unavailable for talks until March 30.
“SCUSD acknowledges they have a staffing crisis—but not their role in it. Other districts try to remedy short-staffing by improving pay and working conditions to retain and recruit staff. SCUSD is doing the opposite: demanding cuts to benefits and take-home pay, laying off workers, and replacing them with part-time positions ineligible for benefits,” said Faucett. “A majority of the entire SCUSD workforce—classified staff, educators, and administrators—has declared no confidence in this superintendent and school board’s leadership.”
Union leaders and members said they were committed to the strike for as long as it takes, and would include more outreach in coming days if negotiations do not move forward.
“We are marching through downtown streets,” said Fisher. “But, if we don’t see some serious movement at the bargaining table, watch for us to move our community outreach door-to-door among voters and parents in these board members’ districts.”