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Sweetwater gets contract, community support the 2,100 members of south San Diego County’s Sweetwa- ter Educat ion Associat ion (SEA) a new contract settle- ment in the midst of difficult economic times. In addition to using more U traditional communications methods including printed fli- ers and one-on-one meetings at building sites, SEA kept mem- bers and the community con- stantly informed via almost dai- ly website updates. Communi- cations efforts also broke new ground by coordinating tradi- tional methods with updates via social networking websites, in- cluding an association page on Facebook and bargaining strat- egy “tweets” via an association Twitter account. Efforts to exert pressure on the board of the Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD) began in August, with SEA members picketing school board members’ homes each Saturday, leafleting their neigh- bors with requests that they support SEA’s contract settle- ment proposals. “SEA members and our sup- porters took almost complete control of a SUHSD school board meeting Sept. 21, 2009, by stacking the public com- ments portion, making it im- possible for them to begin their actual business session until al- most 10 p.m.,” says SEA Presi- dent Alex Anguiano. “Taking nity, determination and skillful organizing strat- egies combined to give that board meeting over was the first time that the school board ‘got it’ that we were serious about going all the way and that we weren’t going to let them off the hook.” A powerful turnout for the Oct. 7 fact-finding session marked SEA’s culminating ac- tivity. More than 1,200 SEA members and supporters from the San Diego County Labor Council, CTA/NEA-Retired, and practically every classified and certificated local in the county were present to support the effort. Association fact-find- ing team members reported that the noise generated by picketers marching outside the district office gave them tremendous support. It turned out to be sorely needed encouragement during the marathon negotiat- ing session that lasted almost 24 hours until the teams reached a tentative contract agreement around dawn the next day. Parents proved to be valuable supporters. SEA members ac- tively sought parent support by going out into the community to inform parents of the labor dispute and the stakes involved. Parents responded with tangible support by speaking for a fair settlement at school board meetings and attending rallies. One parent complained bitterly about the almost $28,000 ex- penditure by the district for sending letters to parents re- garding bargaining. Not only does the three-year agreement ratified in October ABOVE: In support of the Sweetwater Education Association, 1,200 educators and community members marched outside the Sweetwater Unified School District office to support SEA members during a pivotal negotiating session. wipe out egregious take-backs illegally imposed by the district, but the beefy 95 percent approv- al rate of voting members leaves SEA in a strong position to tack- le its next goal — turning over three anti-teacher members on SUHSD’s board and those school administrators who fo- mented the unnecessarily diffi- cult bargaining process. “The school board behaved dishonorably in negotiations and must be held accountable in the November 2010 elections,” says Anguiano, citing the board’s unacceptable “last, best offer” impositions, which in- cluded a permanent increase in pupil-to-teacher class ratios, a two-tiered benefit plan that dis- criminated against new hires, the elimination of the adult school’s break stipend, the uni- lateral cancellation of a contract article related to a school’s abil- ity to set its own unique sched- ule, and the insertion of a man- agement rights article that would have weakened associa- tion member rights. “When the district engaged in only perfunctory bargaining sessions before illegally impos- ing their unacceptable offer — without even waiting for the fact-finding teams to be select- ed — it was obvious they in- tended to take advantage of the difficult economy to gouge out take-backs, decimating the in- tegrity of our contract,” says An- guiano. “But instead of rolling over, SEA members and our supporters rolled out an ex- tremely effective series of com- munication and organizing strategies that resulted in SEA’s ultimate success.” SEA members plan to keep up the momentum generated by their bargaining success to go af- ter the seats of the three school Continued on page 36 november 2009 | 29 CTA photo by Bill Guy

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