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Ceres educators settle contract, gain support I n the wake of a three-day strike by Capistrano teachers in Southern California, teach- ers in the Central Valley town of Ceres began to organize and mobilize to fight off a similar threat by their district to impose a contract with an 8.5 percent permanent salary cut. As a result of their effort, they not only obtained a settlement in their favor, but became a stronger chapter in the process. “This whole thing has done more to improve support for our chapter than anything we’ve done,” says Cheryl Brew- er, president of the Ceres Uni- fied Teachers Association (CUTA). “And we’re going to continue. We are going to turn our Crisis Committee into an Organizing Committee.” About 70 percent of the nearly 600 members participated in some sort of action this spring, BELOW: Seventy percent of CUTA’s 600 members show up to walk the line for a new contract. which included several rallies, writing letters to the editor, at- tending board meetings, and tak- ing part in planning activities. “I got hundreds of supportive e-mails through this process. I even had a group of people who were ‘Prayer Warriors’ and would let me know they were sending out their prayers to me,” Brewer says. After going without a con- tract for almost 700 days, CUTA members became par- ticularly incensed when the district threatened to impose a settlement that would require teachers to accept an 8.5 per- cent cut in pay. Even more galling was the fact that the superintendent had received a $3,000 raise, an additional week of paid vacation and five fewer work days. Meanwhile, other administrators contin- ued to receive car allowances, expense accounts and trips paid for by taxpayers. “The district’s threat to im- pose a contract not only disre- spected the negotiating process, it insulted the teachers who are committed to our students. We’ve said it over and over again: To maintain a quality education for students in this district, it is important to invest in teachers,” Brewer says. A report by the independent fact-finding panel in June bol- stered the teachers’ position, and a settlement was reached shortly after. The chapter agreed to an 8.5 percent salary decrease in 2010-11, lowered to a 7.5 per- cent decrease in the following year. The contract also cuts five non-instructional workdays un- ABOVE: Ceres Unified Teachers Association members on a three-day strike for a new contract. til salaries are restored. Class sizes will also be held down, al- lowing only one additional stu- dent per class in 2011-12 and again in 2012-13. “No one is thrilled, but it is better than what was offered and what would have been imposed, and the fact that the cut is not permanent makes it easier,” Brewer says. DINA MARTIN 30 California Educator | SEPTEMBER 2010 Photos courtesy of CUTA

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