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Teachers demonstrate numbers in prelude to strike Robert Moreno | Sat, Mar 08 2014 12:00 PM

Still without a contract and upset with the way the Sweetwater Union High School District has handled contract negotiations, the Sweetwater Education Association announced it was going to hold a vote that could lead to the first teachers strike in decades.

The announcement came at a Feb. 28 teachers protest where an estimated 500 teachers marched around the district office showing their discontent with superintendent Ed Brand and board members for backing out on a contract agreement.

Union members claim the district participated in unfair labor practices when the district and union had tentatively agreed to insurance benefits but the district pulled out of the deal in the final hours.

“We’re protesting a contract violation, we had agreed to things in the last contract, and the district has unilaterally violated that and has not given us redress yet, that’s what we’re fighting for,” said Ben Fabian, a physics and chemistry teacher at Olympian High School.

Fabian said the district is acting in regressive bargaining by making each contract proposal worse and worse.

“If they violate this, what are they going to violate next?” Fabian said. “They just don’t seem to care.”
The SEA for months has been protesting proposals that include no cost-of-living-adjustment — teachers last received a COLA seven years ago — larger class sizes and an increase in the amount teachers would pay in health insurance.
Should the vote favor a strike, then the more than 1,800 SEA members will start striking within a few days to a couple of weeks, said Helen Farias, a Palomar High School teacher who sits on the SEA board of directors.

Although teachers held picket signs that read “I don’t want to strike but I will,” union president Roberto Rodriguez said the union isn’t bluffing.

“This is real,” he told the crowd of educators about the possibility of a strike.

Sweetwater district board President Jim Cartmill said a strike “isn’t the way to go.”

“I hope we continue to work within the process to reach an agreement that would be fiscally responsible and be able to take care of our teachers on the front lines with our students in a meaningful way,” he said.

Cartmill said the district has reached an agreement with more than 50 percent of employee groups in the district, which includes more than a $3,000 increase in health and welfare benefits.

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investigate Says:

Tue, Mar 11 2014 06:33 AM

Let me also state that I agree with most of you that the biggest issue is the proposed $30 million dollar district office. This is what the teachers and the community should be fighting against. If this is resolved, then the insurance should drop. However, as a neutral party, the union shouldn't play the victim card completely on this.


investigate Says:

Tue, Mar 11 2014 12:13 AM

Shelly,

The writer here is letting the public know that the strike is a serious issue. This article appears factual and unbiased to me. If it was biased, there would be information in here that teachers with 0 dependents now have to pay $0 for insurance.

In the past, all teachers had to pay the same for health insurance. That was a ridiculous tactic that the union enforced. If one has 0 or 1 dependents, they should pay less period, and should have over the past several years. Why should one have to pay for others insurance?

That being said, I also believe the gap now is way to big. People with 2 dependents should not have to pay several hundred dollars more a month than one with 0 dependents. Therefore, people with 2 dependents have to pay around $4,000 more a year. Again, though, was it fair over the last 5-6 years for people with 0 dependents to pay the same amount as those with 2? They definitely payed well over $4,000 for someone else insurance over that amount of time.

All in all, the insurance should drop for people with dependents.


shelly Says:

Mon, Mar 10 2014 06:42 PM

Why is it so difficult for the media to get the facts into the story. I have not heard the cola mentioned in any union meetings as a reason for striking. We ae currently working without a ontract, period. Our last contract, which should stay in place until a new one has been agreed upon, has been violated, period. Why doesn't the news person responsible for this story mention the fact that we have teachers who will be receiving less than $500.00 of income for two months of work because of these contractual violations. That is a hard fact. The $3000.00 raise ia some arbitrary number the board has made up. It does not even make sense arithmetically when you calculate the money involved. Is this a fluff piece, is it not sensational enough to deserve attention, is the writer a friend of someone on the board, or is the writer just too lazy to look up the information correctly?


Greenville Says:

Mon, Mar 10 2014 06:48 AM

Mr. Cartmill is misinformed, has misspoken or was quoted incorrectly. Teachers, administrators and staff in no way, shape or form were offered a $3000 increase in HW benefits...unless you take into account Dr. Brand's regressive offer that took benefit contributions back to the levels from the turn of this century. Teachers are striking because their benefit costs have gone up--in some cases more than $3000.


Ben Cassel Says:

Mon, Mar 10 2014 06:17 AM

I serve on the Bargaining Committee of SEA. The reason we are considering a possible strike is that the district has violated the existing contract. If we let that go, then our message is that they can negotiate anything and demand concessions and sacrifices to get it, and then violate that contract with impunity. We are not considering a strike for the benefits article, per se; we are considering a strike to protect the contract and the idea that the district must obey the contracts they sign. It goes to the integrity of the entire collective bargaining process.

This year's contract is a separate issue. There are more than a dozen major unresolved issues on the table, and the district has made no proposals for the last seven meetings. The benefits contribution is a major one, and while the amount is what they would have contributed this year if they had not violated the contract, what they are offering is a major take-back. Eliminating the percentage for which we fought last year means that every year when premium rates change, we take a de facto pay cut.

The district needs to see that we are serious about making them abide by the agreements they have already made, and that they need to negotiate in good faith on the current ones.
Despite what Jim Cartmill says, the district is NOT "continuing to work within the process..." They have not addressed the violation of last year's contract, and their proposals on this year's contract have remained unchanged for the past SEVEN all-day bargaining meetings.


Yaheard Says:

Sun, Mar 09 2014 10:50 PM

There are two issues. One is a breach of contract. The other is current negotiations. Let me try to explain by using an analogy: Imagine you buy a house. You agree to certain terms. You sign the contract and are locked in. That is what teachers did in 2012-2013 regarding the benefits contribution. The district agreed to pay 68% of the kaiser family rate for all employees.

Now imagine a year later, you are refinancing your house. You are in negotiations with the bank for new terms, but until the new loan closes, your old contract is in effect. That is what should be happening right now regarding the healthcare contribution.

What if, during the refinance negotiations, the bank decided to change the terms of your original loan, forcing you to pay hundreds of dollars more a month? What if they did this so that they could scare you into accepting a refinance package that would cost you more long term, and make them tons of money? That is what Ed Brand has done regarding the benefits contribution.

We have a contract that is in effect until a new agreement is reached. Under that contract, the district agreed to contribute approximately $12,000 to employee healthcare. When we began negotiating a new contract, Brand decided to lower the contribution to approximately $9,000 per employee.

Brand is playing hardball with people's lives. He has breached our contract to try and scare us into accept his lowball offers during current negotiations. SUHSD teachers won't be bullied! We are ready to strike.


JD Says:

Sun, Mar 09 2014 09:45 PM

Mr. Moreno please get the facts straight and report them as they are. Sweetwater Union High school district has violated the previously agreed upon,signed,voted on by the board and funded agreement of health benefits. It is not about money! It is about honesty, integrity and respect. All of which the SUHSD board has none.It is about the violation of a previously agreed upon contract. The STAR NEWS has had a great history of reporting the correct facts. Please keep it that way.

JD
Chula Vista resident


Kris Says:

Sun, Mar 09 2014 06:49 PM

correction, the district and SEA had not "tentatively agreed to insurance benefits but the district pulled out of the deal in the final hours." The ULP strike refers to a violation of an agreement on benefits that was SIGNED by all parties. It is NOT part of the current negotiations but is a violation of the currently signed contract.


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