San Jose Teachers Stage Walkout

May 03, 1989 2 min read

Los Angeles is not the only major urban school district in California embroiled in a labor dispute. Teachers in San Jose participated in a one-day walkout last week that capped a bitter year of unsuccessful contract negotiations.

The teachers have been working without a contract since June 30, when their three-year contract expired. They are asking for a 7 percent salary increase.

The San Jose Unified School District, which went bankrupt in 1983 after a protracted labor battle, has offered teachers raises of 4.32 percent.

The walkout on April 25 was an attempt to force the district back to the bargaining table, said Roger Evans, president of the San Jose Teachers Association.

“What we want to do is raise the public’s awareness and make the school board aware that we have a serious labor problem and it’s not getting better,” Mr. Evans said.

Negotiations on a new contract broke down last fall, shortly after the district proposed bargaining only salaries, benefits, and the length of the contract, said Superintendent Hilda Beck. The shortened list of items was proposed in an attempt to reach agreement on a contract before the new school year started, she said.

The union had submitted 161 items for negotiation, totalling $57.5 million, Mrs. Beck said. The district’s proposals totalled $3.9 million.

“Of course you’re going to have to say no to 99 percent of everything with a package like that,” said Mrs. Beck, who plans to retire in June rather than “deal with this year after year.”

The union declared an impasse in September. The matter went to me4diation in December and fact-finding in January. Both the mediator and the fact-finder concurred with the district’s contention that it had no more money for salary increases, but the union rejected both reports.

Mr. Evans said the union believes the district does indeed have the money for salaries.

“We feel the makings of the settlement are within the economic realm,” he said. “Their priority is not to put it on the table for us to bargain with. The non-money items were always rejected as too much to bargain.”

Among the other issues being negotiated are:

Medical benefits. The district offered full coverage this school year, with the issue to be reopened for negotiation next year. Teachers want full coverage throughout the contract.

Workload. The teachers’ union wants the requirement for time spent with students to be made uniform for all grades. The district has refused.

Emergency communications. The teachers want the district to agree to put into the contract a provision for installing two-way telephone systems in classrooms by September. The issue is important to teachers because of the January shooting at a school in Stockton, Calif., in which five students were killed by a gunman, Mr. Evans said.

The district has proposed putting the phones in elementary schools this summer and secondary schools by the end of next fiscal year.

In 1983, after several years of severe budget-cutting, the district was forced to declare bankruptcy after an arbitrator ruled that it could not renege on giving its teachers the 6.1 percent and 6 percent raises it had agreed to under the teachers’ contract.--ab

A version of this article appeared in the May 03, 1989 edition of Education Week as San Jose Teachers Stage Walkout