California Educator

February 2011

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National City settles at the last minute O nly a few hours before they were set to walk picket lines in an unfair labor practices strike, the 354 mem- bers of the National City Ele- mentary Teachers Association learned that instead they would be going back to their class- rooms that day. Following 18 hours of intense negotiations, the NCETA’s bargaining team inked a temporary agreement with the National School Dis- trict at 2:30 a.m., Friday, Feb. 4. On Feb. 10, 97 percent of the union’s membership ratified the new contract, ending a full year of protracted, difficult bargain- ing for this south San Diego County chapter. “Of course, a strike was the last thing National City teach- ers wanted,” says NCETA Pres- ident Linda Cartwright. “So we are extremely pleased to avert that kind of disruption by settling the contract. But it shouldn’t have come down to the wire like it did. We knew all along that some conces- sions were necessary during the current economic difficul- ties. We made numerous con- ciliatory offers, but each one was pushed back across the table.” The new three-year con- tract includes four teacher pay cut days in each year with res- toration language that could result in fewer cut days if the district’s attendance-based “revenue limit” funding in- creases beyond a certain level in the final two years. Class sizes in the district will be maintained at 22 to 1 in kin- dergarten through third grade and 33 to 1 in grades 4-6 dur- ing the contract’s first two years. The agreement also re- stores association leave and guarantees association input on hours of employment and transfer and reassignment language. Contract talks began Feb- ruary of last year with the dis- trict declaring impasse in March after only four bargain- ing sessions. At the same time, National City Superintendent of Schools Chris Oram stated both in public and in writing TOP: Maria Vazquez and Jennifer Hawkish at the Jan. 28 candlelight vigil. RIGHT: National City Elementary School Teachers Association mem- bers at the vigil hope that they’ll remain in the classroom with their students without disruption. 28 California Educator | FEBRUARY 2011 that the district had not made its final offer, clearly an unfair labor practice under Califor- nia labor law. Last July, the district insisted on fact-find- ing, but when the teachers ac- cepted the recommended set- tlement, the district not only rejected the report, but came back with even harsher pro- posals, followed by an imposi- tion that ultimately forced the union’s strike vote. The imposed conditions unilaterally cut five student instruction days plus an addi- tional prep day for teachers, and gave the district leeway to increase class sizes to 30 to 1 in primary grades and 34 to 1 in upper grades. It al so stripped contract language with no fiscal impact, includ- ing teachers’ rights to negoti- CTA photos by Bill Guy

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