The Pittsburg Unified School District on Monday announced that it reached a tentative agreement with its local teachers union, thereby putting an end to months of negotiations and heightening worries that a deal wouldn’t be brokered before the start of summer vacation.
District officials fittingly announced the April deal on May Day, an international day of action that raises awareness for workers’ rights. The agreement, which is replete with compromises, was certified at a mid-April education board meeting and will be finalized in the coming weeks.
Ultimately, the Pittsburg Education Association secured its union members a four percent salary bump, with retroactive payment starting from July 1. They will also control at least four Wednesdays — a short school day in the district to accommodate administrative meetings — to organize and collaborate with other teachers. No change was made to the benefits agreement; the district will continue to cover 93 percent of health benefits contributions.
District teachers who are members of the California School Employees Association will also receive the same four percent pay bump, with retroactive payment starting from July 1.
Norma Gonzales, the assistant superintendent of human resources for the district, touted the deal and noted that Pittsburg teacher salaries rank in the top one-third of total compensation for Contra Costa County schools. Over the past three years, district teachers received an 18 percent salary hike.
“It allows us to find and hire top talent to serve our students in the classroom and in support staff roles throughout the District,” Gonzales said in a statement.
A representative for the Pittsburg Education Association did not immediately return a request for comment.
Back in December, the teachers union and district leaders reached an impasse and entered a mediation process. The Pittsburg Education Association asked the district to cover 100 percent of health benefits contributions, agree to a 5.5 percent salary hike and create smaller special education class sizes, among other demands. District leaders countered by offering a three percent raise hike and no change to employee benefits.
As part of the agreement, discussion about reducing special education class sizes will continue, with new class sizes taking effect during the 2018 to 2019 academic year, according to the tentative agreement.
If mediation failed, the impasse would have continued to mandatory arbitration. Classes would not have been affected.
It's not unusual for the union and the district to reach an impasse. In 2015, union President Dawn Cova described it as a routine occurrence in an interview with the East Bay Times.
"I've been in the district 12 years, and I can't recall one time that we haven't gone to impasse," Cova, a middle school teacher, said. "It just kind of becomes part of the process here."
The Pittsburg Unified School District is comprised of more than a dozen schools and serves 11,000 students. The Pittsburg Education Association represents the district's teachers, therapists, and other school employees.