A state-appointed mediator in the Fresno Unified teacher contract talks supported the district’s proposal of a 14% pay raise and significant bonuses for teachers over a three-year contract that would be accompanied by a reduction in funding for teachers’ healthcare.
(Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story erroneously said the district was offering teachers a 28.71% pay increase, a total that reflected raises and a series of one-time payments.)
The Fresno Teachers Association unveiled the recommendations by fact-finder Al Raczka, who was appointed by the Public Employment Relations Board, in a Zoom meeting with members on Tuesday evening.
GV Wire was invited by a veteran teacher to watch the Zoom meeting.
According to slides shown during the union’s Zoom meeting, the district is offering pay raises for the last school year and a new three-year contract that would expire in June 2026 totaling 20%, plus one-time payments this year of $5,000 and 2.5% one-time payments in the second and third year of the contract.
The district’s proposal also includes slashing the healthcare contribution by millions of dollars. The district’s healthcare provider is the self-funded Joint Health Management Board.
Homeless Parking Proposal Was an ‘Interest’
The FTA had sought 27% raises and $27,500 bonuses over this year and the next three years in a 26-page document that also included a series of student- and family-oriented proposals, including smaller class sizes, installing washers and dryers at schools, providing pantries at schools for food and personal hygiene items, providing 24-hour mental health services for students and families, and opening school parking lots for homeless families.
FTA President Manuel Bonilla told teachers Tuesday that, contrary to recent news reports, the parking lot proposal was included as an “interest” and not an item the union would strike over.
The news stories sparked a number of threats left on the union office voicemail and in social media posts, he said.
The fact-finder supported the district’s pay and healthcare proposals and also recommended maintaining the status quo for class sizes and the number of meeting hours teachers are required to attend, the union said. Teachers are seeking a reduction in both meeting hours and class sizes.
Raczka also recommended that the two sides create committees to continue with interest-based bargaining over the issues.
Don’t Cut Healthcare
Union members have said that they don’t want to trade pay hikes for a cut to their healthcare, and that appears to be one of the major sticking points that could lead to a strike vote next week.
A union official said Wednesday that FTA officials are declining to comment on the contract negotiations and fact-finder’s recommendations “at this time.”
The fact-finder’s report has not been made public by either the district or the union. District spokeswoman Nikki Henry said Wednesday morning that the district is prohibited from releasing it before Monday.
The two sides negotiated for nearly 11 hours last Thursday, three hours on Friday, nine hours on Monday, and three hours on Tuesday, with another session scheduled for 3:30 p.m. today, Henry said.
The two sides “have been scheduling day by day this week as we continue to make progress,” she said.
Board Set to Ratify FTA Contract for Social Workers
The Oct. 18 School Board agenda includes ratification of a contract with Fresno Teachers Association for the district’s social workers. But, unless the district and union also reach an agreement on a new teachers pact by then, teachers will be assembling the same day at the Paul Paul Theatre at the Fresno Fairgrounds for a strike authorization vote.
The last time Fresno teachers walked out was in 1978. Decades later a potential strike was averted when the two sides reached a deal in January 2018 after months of contentious contract talks.
Not all contract talks are acrimonious. District and union officials hailed their mutual cooperation in reaching their agreement on a three-year contract in June 2019 that was signed before the old contract had expired, which they termed “historic.”
Fresno Unified has been preparing for the possibility of a teacher walkout by raising substitute pay to $500 per day during a strike, more than double what they are paid now.
And, the union also has made preparations to help teachers bridge any pay losses during the strike. Bonilla said during Tuesday’s meeting that the Educational Employees Credit Union is offering members several types of financial assistance, including a zero APR, one-month loan equivalent to a teacher’s monthly direct deposit paycheck.