SEIU 1021

Sacramento City Unified Schools Members Vote by 97% to Authorize Strike
No strike date has been set yet, but if SCUSD management continues to violate labor law, classified staff and educators will go on strike


Last week, Sacramento City Unified School District classified staff and educators voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike. 97% of classified staff, who are represented by SEIU 1021, and 95% of certificated educators, who are represented by the California Teachers Association, voted yes. As a result, the SCUSD bargaining team now has the green light to call a strike if SCUSD management continues to negotiate in bad faith on key issues related to staffing, the quality of instruction, and health and safety protocols.

Earlier last week, CalOSHA issued a citation against the district for pushing staff who had tested positive for covid or who were experiencing covid symptoms to continue reporting to work, cutting janitorial services when the need for sanitation is greater than ever, and other failures that have resulted in students, staff, and their families being needlessly exposed to covid.

There are currently hundreds of vacancies among classified staff—which includes positions like school bus drivers, nutrition service workers, clerical staff, and campus monitors–yet instead of trying to fill those positions, district management is pursuing layoffs of classified staff. “We know who suffers the most from this staffing crisis: our students and their families. When staff and educators are stretched too thin, kids pay the price. Our working conditions are their learning conditions. Sac City students and families deserve better. And they’re not going to get it until the district starts valuing its employees, from bus drivers and nutrition service workers to teachers,” said Karla Faucett, a professional development specialist with 18 years in the district, who serves as the SCUSD chapter president of SEIU Local 1021. “Our members have spoken loud and clear: They are prepared to strike to ensure that all Sac City students receive the education they deserve.”

Last month, transportation workers and other classified staff staged a protest outside Serna Center to call attention to the unsafe working conditions and unsustainable workloads caused by the staffing crisis: Students who had tested positive being put on school buses without notifying the drivers; drivers who tested positive being told to keep working; kids from multiple routes being crammed into buses with no social distancing due to a lack of drivers to cover all the routes. Bus drivers are being lured to neighboring districts with offers of better pay and signing bonuses, while SCUSD offers nothing but cuts to pay and benefits.

The staffing crisis does not involve just classified staff. Since the return to classes from winter break on January 3, on an average day, 3,000 Sac City students have gone without even a substitute teacher. On some school days, the number has spiked to nearly 5,000 students. For example, At John F. Kennedy High School, on multiple occasions, students from as many as 13 different classes have been crowded into a school auditorium due to a lack of substitutes. Perhaps most egregious, district administrators have completely neglected 571 students from across the district who are unable to attend school in-person and have gone without any instruction this school year due to a lack of independent study teachers. 

“As educators, we have a moral responsibility to advocate for our students,” said SCTA President David Fisher, a second-grade teacher. “Warehousing kids in cafeterias and auditoriums and doubling and tripling classes is not the way to teach. Rather than work with us to address the staffing crisis and create an environment that would help to recruit and retain educators, Superintendent Jorge Aguilar blames teachers and other frontline staff for administrative failures that leave students and their families abandoned.”

Money shouldn’t be an issue. Due to a significant infusion in funds from state and federal sources, this year SCUSD has received a record $20,855 per student. The district also has large cash reserves of $125 million dollars, the highest in SCUSD history.

In his State of the Union address on March 1, President Biden said, “The American Rescue Plan gave schools money to hire teachers and help students make up for lost learning. I urge every parent to make sure your school does just that. They have the money.”

Sacramento is an outlier. Despite the additional funds, skyrocketing inflation, and short-staffing across the board, Aguilar has demanded layoffs, a five-year wage freeze, and cuts to health benefits targeting SCUSD employees with families that will significantly reduce take-home pay–at a time when the district’s wages are already not competitive with neighboring districts or the private sector.

“We don’t have a money crisis, we have a values crisis,” said Fisher. “We suffer from fiscal mismanagement and district managers with misplaced priorities.”

Watch SEIU 1021 SCUSD Chapter President Karla Faucett explain why SCUSD classified staff are prepared to strike on CBS 13 here.