FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – After months of failed negotiations between Fresno Unified School District and the Fresno Teachers Association over teacher’s contracts teachers are voting Wednesday whether or not to go on strike.
If teachers vote in favor of a strike 4,000 educators could soon be out of the classroom and on the picket line.
Teachers filled into the fairgrounds Paul Paul Theater Wednesday.
The last time the FTA held a strike vote was in 2017 when teachers did vote to strike but an agreement was met before teachers hit the picket lines
“It is time for Superintendent Nelson and this board to put the classroom first”, said Manuel Bonilla, president of the FTA.
President of California’s third largest teachers’ union Manuel Bonilla says Fresno Unified Teachers were left no choice but to go forward with Wednesday night’s strike vote.
After negotiations failed between the union and the district.
“It’s a mixture of positive energy and standing up for our voice, our professionalism, our calling, but also some frustration being so dismissed and being the low priority,” said Bonilla.
The teachers’ union is asking for better pay, lifetime health benefits, smaller class sizes, and a reduction in caseloads for special education teachers.
On Friday, the district made its latest offer which included a 19% salary increase for teachers over three years and stipends to teachers for larger class sizes and special education students with larger caseloads.
As well as a new healthcare model giving teachers lifetime benefits for educators with 20 years of service in the district.
“At age 57 ½, if you have 20 years of service with the district, that you’ll be continued to offer our same active employee plan, at the same active employee premium for you and for your spouse.” Said Bob Nelson superintendent of Fresno Unified.
The teacher’s union says the district’s latest offer is not enough.
“It’s because we are moving towards a potential strike that they finally came to the table last week,” said Bonilla.
In preparation for the possible strike, the district has 2,100 certified background-checked substitute teachers who will be paid $500 a day if a strike were to happen.
“Teachers don’t make their daily rate of pay when they are actually working, when they are engaged in a work stoppage it becomes an offset if you bring a guest teacher to fill in the same space,” said Nelson.
Bonilla says the classrooms would become a daycare without everyday teachers.
“Essentially what becomes a babysitting service is really indicative of what they believe our work to be,” said Bonilla.
The last time Fresno teachers went on strike was 45 years ago.