Members of SEIU 1021, which represents some 900 custodial workers and other staff in San Francisco public schools, have voted 99.5 percent in favor of a strike against the school district, according to union representatives.
The strike authorization vote comes as the union is in the midst of contract negotiations and puts pressure on the San Francisco Unified School District to ink a deal. It does not guarantee a strike, but rather gives the union’s negotiating team the power to call a strike if the district’s proposals are insufficient.
“We remain committed to an agreement,” said Nato Green, a negotiator for SEIU who has been in bargaining sessions for months. The two sides will be back in negotiations on Wednesday, Green said, adding that it “remains to be seen if the district has the political will to solve its own problems.”
The proposals on either side are still poles apart: The union is asking for a 16 percent raise backdated to 2020, saying its workers have gone four years without a pay increase; the union also wants one-time $3,000 bonuses and salary modifications. The school district has countered with raises of 6 percent, backdated to last year, 6 percent for this year, and 4 percent increases thereafter if certain budget conditions are agreed to by the union.
SEIU declined to say how many workers participated in the vote, which took place over two days on Sep. 30 and Oct. 3, but Chelsea Fink, a union spokesperson, said the vote was 99.5 percent in favor.
“Always remember, we don’t want to go on strike,” said Rafael Picazo, the president of SEIU 1021’s chapter for school district workers. “But the district is forcing us to fight this fight for our members, our families and our students.”
SEIU’s members are among the lowest-paid workers in the school district and make less than their counterparts working for the San Francisco city government: A school custodian, for instance, makes a base salary of $23 an hour, while a city custodian starts at $30 an hour.
The San Francisco school district did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
SEIU’s authorization comes as representatives of the teachers’ union, in the middle of their own contract negotiations, have also sought strike authorizations: Members of United Educators of San Francisco, which represents some 6,500 teachers across the district, will vote on Oct. 11 to authorize a strike, unless there is significant movement on contract bargaining.
And yesterday, the district made its biggest compromise to teachers in months: After hours of negotiation during the latest bargaining session, school district representatives proposed a $10,000 increase for teachers across the board, a $30 minimum wage for non-certified instructors, 4 percent raises starting next year if certain conditions are met, and other salary increases. The school superintendent sent a message to teachers, parents and others advertising the move.
The teachers’ union had asked for a $12,000 increase for teachers, a $30 minimum wage for other instructors, and higher raises. Still, the movement on Monday night represented the most significant shift in months, though it is unclear whether the union will accept the latest proposal.