San Francisco teachers voted to approve a strike by 97 percent at a United Educators of San Francisco (UESF) General Membership meeting on Thursday night. The strike approval is the first in San Francisco in six years.
The UESF organized the vote in response to the San Francisco Unified School District's plans to drastically increase classroom sizes and cut more than $30 million from teacher salaries and benefits over the next two years.
"Last night the teachers of San Francisco sent a message loud and clear to the San Francisco Unified School District," said UESF President Dennis Kelly in a statement. “It is time for the district to stop seeking unilateral cuts and sweeping program changes, and to start treating the teachers and paraprofessionals with respect and to recognize what we have done to keep this district afloat.”
Teachers will not yet strike, however: Thursday's decision marked the first of two required votes. The UESF will work with the district to negotiate a new contract, and if one is not reached, teachers have agreed to strike.
Instead of the proposed cuts, teachers are asking for a two percent raise. A state mediator will now join the negotiations.
But the financial struggle could be just the tip of the iceberg. If California voters reject Governor Jerry Brown's proposed tax increase in November, school districts across the state will face $5 billion in further cuts.
“We are committed to a negotiated settlement, and we will continue to bargain in good faith,” said Kelly in the statement. “But as the overwhelming results of the strike vote demonstrate, teachers are willing to do what it takes to protect their classrooms and their profession.”