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The Lowell

The Student News Site of Lowell High School

The Lowell

The Student News Site of Lowell High School

The Lowell

SFUSD teachers rally for fair contracts amid district negotiations

SFUSD+teachers+rally+for+fair+contracts+amid+district+negotiations
Kylie Chau

On Monday, Sep. 18, over 1,300 members of the United Educators of San Francisco (UESF), a union representing San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) teachers and paraprofessionals, held a protest at the district headquarters on 555 Franklin Street. Marking the 18th bargaining session, contract negotiations between the union and the district occurred inside the building, while teachers in support were walking around the block, chanting their demands for fair work contracts. Seeing little progress on the district’s proposals, UESF called for a vote on Oct. 11 to authorize a possible strike. Following this strike vote announcement, SFUSD proposed a package that would include raises of up to $10,000 for all teachers this school year and a $30 per hour starting wage for paraprofessionals.                                           

Many of Lowell’s teachers attended the protest last month, advocating for conditions that include livable wages in their contracts.

Hayden Miller

Rebecca Johnson, a social studies teacher and department head, attended to voice concern over the low pay that she and many other SFUSD employees receive from their current contract. “Our pay has not kept up with the increased cost of living and the pace of inflation,” she said. Similarly, English teacher Brian Ritter, who attended the protest dressed as Casey the Cardinal mascot, blames SFUSD for not granting teachers sufficient wages that adjust to the city’s inflated cost of living.“I was actually making more money ten years ago than I am today and that’s not supposed to be how it works,” he said. 

Like many SFUSD employees attending the UESF picketing event, Ritter is dissatisfied with the district’s responses to union negotiation attempts. He feels frustrated that the district is not tending to outdated and unfair work contracts despite their efforts. “The school district allows teachers to teach on an expired contract for years,” Ritter said. “And when we have negotiated, we don’t get a retroactive raise.” SFUSD’s counter-offers to union bargaining attempts for higher wages have not met the expectations of many teachers, according to Johnson.

Echoing the dissatisfaction with district negotiations, social studies teacher and Union Building Committee (UBC) representative Kristina Lubenow stressed the importance of fair pay and school funding. “We put proposals on the table which asked for an increase in pay for substitutes, paraprofessionals, and for teachers, in addition to retaining AP funding,” Lubenow said. “It’s important that the union’s bargaining team has visual support from teachers.” Having sacrificed funding towards Advanced Placement (AP) resources last year, Lowell’s budget and teacher workloads were severely impacted, prompting new teacher layoffs, according to Lubenow. 

For Lowell, retaining AP funding amidst this year’s negotiations is vital. With AP funding, high schools receive $600 per AP test administered, contributing to additional class offerings and prep time for teachers of AP courses. Lowell faced $2.6 million in budget cuts during the 2022-2023 school year when AP funding was not provided. The fate of AP funding remains at stake with ongoing negotiations. 

Kylie Chau

As the bargaining teams continue to meet in this new bargaining cycle, they’re still seeking agreements regarding fair pay and work practices. Dissatisfied with district offers on the SFUSD-union bargaining table, UESF has scheduled a strike vote to take place on Oct. 11 at Balboa High School. This vote entails the union’s 6,000 members attempting to reach an affirmative vote to begin preparations for a possible strike against the district. 

In response to UESF picketing efforts, bargaining sessions, and an announcement of a strike vote, Superintendent Matt Wayne announced a proposal on Oct. 3 that would offer teachers an appealing, but flawed package, according to Lowell’s bargaining representative and social studies teacher Dina Yoshimura. This would provide teachers with a $10,000 raise this school year with an additional 4% raise in the 2024-2025 school year, with one of the tradeoffs being the loss of AP funding. According to an email from Yoshimura, to keep AP funding, the union would offer a $9,000 raise instead of the $10,000 that the district is offering. “The bargaining team was overwhelmingly in favor of keeping AP funding with some detractors in the wings,” Yoshimura wrote in the email. Additionally, she believes that the SFUSD counteroffer regarding paraprofessional wages were disappointing. She considers the $30 starting wage offer a “win,” but the attached raise schedule to be “insulting.” They would only be eligible for a small raise after five years.  

“We should all be sharpening our pitchforks.”

— Ritter

Further bargaining sessions will determine the final offer that members will vote on. Last month’s protest efforts and recent negotiations are just the beginning of district employees remaining committed to achieving fair work contracts this bargaining cycle. Frustrated with the district offer laid out on the bargaining table, many of Lowell’s teachers and union leaders hope that a resounding strike authorization vote results in a better offer. Like Ritter, teachers will continue advocating to show SFUSD that teachers mean business. “We should all be sharpening our pitchforks,” Ritter said.

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About the Contributors
Hayden Miller, Reporter
He/Him Hayden Miller is a Senior and a reporter for the Lowell. Hayden serves on the San Francisco Youth Commission and is an advocate for better public transportation throughout California. When he is not in a government meeting, you can find Hayden enjoying a burrito, on a bus in rural Northern California, or biking with friends.
Sierra Sun, Editor-in-Chief
She/Her Sierra is a senior at Lowell. She loves munching school lunch hotdogs and updating her secret Letterboxd account. Sierra also loves sunny weather.
Kylie Chau, Multimedia Editor-in-Chief
She/They Kylie is currently a senior at Lowell. When they aren't in the Journ Room, you can find them in a cafe being "productive", freaking out over photography exhibitions, or explaining motorsport drama to people who have no idea what she's talking about.

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