Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

Parents and Students Organize Sit-In in Solidarity with Striking Sacramento Teachers

In Sacramento, parents and students are organizing sit-ins to support their teachers, who are on strike for higher pay and increased staffing.

Facebook Twitter Share
SCUSD families hold a sit-in at the district office demanding a resolution to the strike, Friday April 1, 2022
Photo: Andrew Nixon / CapRadio

In an incredible show of solidarity, Sacramento parents and students have organized a sit-in to support striking teachers and support staff. Parents have been camping out at district headquarters in the Serna Center, calling for the school board to meet with teachers and reach an agreement. They are watching movies and playing board games, and have vowed to continue the sit-in until the district takes action. These community-led tactics demonstrate the interconnectedness between teachers and their communities.

Since March 23, 4,000 educators in Sacramento have been on strike demanding higher pay in pace with inflation, increased staffing in their schools, no cuts to health benefits, and improved support for students. These educators and staff have gone without pay since the strike began and many of the lowest-paid staff members are struggling to make ends meet. Yet these workers are holding out and keeping up the fight, keenly aware that their fight is not only their own, but also that of their students and community.

On the first day of their strike, at least 25,000 people gathered in support. On Thursday, 80 teachers and staff members took over the district office’s cafeteria, vowing to stay put until the district met and negotiated a contract. On Friday, members of the workers’ bargaining team waited for ten hours to be joined by the district bargaining team.

Did you know Left Voice has a podcast? Listen to All That’s Left on Spotify and Apple Podcasts

Parents April Ybarra and Amber Verdugo have been leaders in the sit-in efforts, and gave moving speeches on Saturday showing their unwavering commitment to the struggle. Ybarra, who has been camping out in solidarity with the teachers, talked about how it was her teachers who helped her find her voice in an educational system designed to fail her. “We are tired,” she shouted, “but we are not defeated!” In a powerful moment, the workers voted unanimously to admit Ybarra and Verdugo to the negotiation team.

The chants from the picket line reflect a deep hatred toward the Sacramento City Unified Superintendent Jorge Aguilar. Aguilar, whose salary exceeds $400,000 and has very little classroom experience, has refused to show up to the bargaining table for the past three years. Aguilar reportedly refused to meet with teachers over strike talks, even at the request of California Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The capitalist system is responsible for creating the overwhelming and understaffed working conditions at schools. There is never enough money for education, but there is always enough room in the budget to fund the police

Sacramento City Unified School District is short staffed by 250 regular teachers and 100 substitute teachers. Students are dismayed at the lack of help that their teachers have if they become sick or need to take a day off. Phoenix Leri, a high school senior in the district, told Associated Press, “It’s a struggle for [teachers] to find someone to stand in and help our class. It’s honestly kind of jarring, I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Sacramento City Teachers Association (SCTA) and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1021 have been negotiating a contract with the district since 2019, and have been negotiating Covid-related issues since 2020. The pandemic has laid bare the contradictions faced by education workers: they are both indispensable to their communities, yet treated by their districts as expendable, as evidenced by nearly two years of unsafe reopening plans and massive budget cuts, including staff lay-offs. While teachers have been contracting Covid due to unsafe reopenings, now the district wants to make current and retired teachers pay hundreds more to keep a non-HMO health plan. 

Larry Ferlazzo, a well-known English and social studies teacher in Sacramento, described district leaders’ indefensible decision to use Covid funds to opt for occasional one-time “bonuses” or “stipends,” while refusing to permanently increase staff wages, despite projections of increased state and local funding. Instead, funds were used to boost salaries of high-level administrators while there are unfilled teacher positions at just about every school, sub positions go unfilled, and already stressed staff are forced to cover classes during their free periods. Other districts have chosen to hoard funds rather than use them to hire much needed staff.

As we have also seen in Minneapolis, education workers have been taking the lead and are showing us how to fight back. Minneapolis students also organized a several-day sit-in in solidarity with teachers. And like their Minneapolis counterparts, Sacramento education workers, parents, students, and community members refuse to be pitted against each other and know their fight is one and the same. As they have been shouting in Sacramento: “When we fight, kids win!”

Both Sacramento and Minneapolis teachers are showing what it means to stand united with all of one’s co-workers, whether represented by the same union or not. In Minneapolis, teachers were standing side by side with the lowest-paid educational support professionals. In Sacramento, teachers are also fighting for support staff. As Ferlazzo wrote in his op-ed in Education Week, “teacher and custodian and paraprofessional and bus driver and school secretary working conditions are student learning conditions.”

The sub-par working conditions for education workers are not just a problem in Minneapolis or in Sacramento. A recent poll found that over half of teachers are considering quitting their jobs. Sacramento and Minneapolis are just the beginning. Unions across the country need to mobilize to make this fight a success and help teachers fight to defend public education nationwide. Leaders from teachers’ organizations such as the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and support staff unions need to go all out and financially support the striking teachers. And we, as the working class, must put pressure on our unions to stand in solidarity with striking teachers across the country, and make our voices heard on the streets.

To support these striking teachers, contribute to the SEIU GoFundMe.

Facebook Twitter Share

Labor Movement

‘We are the First Starbucks Union in Latin America’: Chilean Starbucks Workers Speak

Antonio Paez and Deborath Jofre, President and Secretary of the Starbucks Union in Chile, attended the Labor Notes Conference in Chicago. Here is their speech at the “Workers of the world, unite! Unions abroad take on Amazon, Starbucks, GM, and Google” panel.

Antonio Paez

June 28, 2022
A group of people at a presentation at the 2022 Labor Notes conference

Something Big Is Stirring: Report from the 2022 Labor Notes Conference:

This year’s Labor Notes conference was massive. Four thousand of the most active union activists gathered in Chicago, often pushing the discussions well to the left. We caught sight of something important — possibly something powerful — stirring inside the labor movement. Let’s help it grow.

Jason Koslowski

June 25, 2022
Several workers hugging in front of a Chipotle Store

The Unionization Wave Continues: Workers In Maine Have Organized the First Chipotle Store in the Country

Workers at an Augusta, Maine Chipotle have formed an independent union: Chipotle United. This is a clear indication that the unionization wave that started with Starbucks and Amazon is only growing stronger.

James Dennis Hoff

June 22, 2022

U.K. Railway Workers Begin Largest Strike in 30 Years

Amid high inflation, tens of thousands of railway and subway workers across the United Kingdom have declared at least three days of work stoppages to demand wage increases and other protections. Transport across much of the region has ground to a halt.

MOST RECENT

Teachers in NYC Pay Out of Pocket for Abortion. Healthcare Must be Accessible to All

The following is a speech by a public school teacher in NYC against the overturn of Roe v. Wade and in favor of abortion rights for all.

Ali

June 28, 2022

Thousands Protest against G7 Summit in Germany

The leaders of the seven most powerful imperialist countries are meeting in the Alps. These seven men stand for environmental destruction and militarism like no one else. That’s why protests were guaranteed.

Nathaniel Flakin

June 28, 2022

Tens of Thousands Take the Streets in Defiance of Overturn of Roe v. Wade

Following the Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, tens of thousands of people took to the streets in outrage and to demand that abortion remain legal across the country.

Left Voice

June 27, 2022

Coalition of Leftists, Activists, and Unions Bring 20,000 Out for Abortion Rights in NYC

Organized by a coalition of socialist organizations, unions, and reproductive rights and housing groups, tens of thousands of people took their rage to the streets against the overturning of the constitutional right to an abortion.

Madeleine Freeman

June 25, 2022