On Wednesdays, We Wear Red

 

Teachers feud with FUSD as their demands for an overdue salary increase among other concerns continue to be overlooked

Yasmeen Abed

Staff Writer

    Unifying the teachers, carrying their cause, and remaining an emblem of their protest—a symbolic round red button complements their everyday work attire as they take one unified stand.

    Teachers have been showing solidarity with the FUDTA—the Fremont Unified District Teachers Association—by wearing a red button with the statement ‘You can’t put students first if you put educators last’ and red shirts on Wednesdays. This unification of the teachers furthers their protest against the school district as they advocate for various concerns regarding salaries and communication.

    “We need to remind ourselves that we are currently fighting every day to get a salary that we deserve,” English teacher Mr. Howard shared. “And the longer this goes on, the more drastic our actions will become. We might start leafleting [by distributing informational flyers], we might start showing up at more board meetings. I don’t think we’ll get to a strike, but that’s the ultimate destination.”

    The FUDTA’s opposition to the actions of the school district (or lack thereof) is rooted in the lack of negotiations and mere acknowledgment of the union’s concerns in over two months. A new district superintendent has been accused of disregarding the concerns of the teachers’ union as she fails to meet the demands of the teachers in FUSD. This absence in communication has harbored a relationship which teachers feel is detrimental as their concerns with the lack of negotiations go unanswered.

    “If you really say that ‘we care about the kids,’ you could afford to make sure that you would get the best for the kids,” Social Studies teacher and member of the FUDTA, Mr. Rojas said.

    In addition to a lack of negotiations between the parties, FUSD has been accused of mishandling the rising issues relevant to school administration as the current teachers’ salaries cannot compete with the Bay Area’s record-breaking rise in housing costs. The school district’s solution? Teachers finding roommates.

    “The money’s there, we just don’t know why they’re being so stringent and Ebenezer Scrooge,” Mr. Rojas shared. “They have been very miserly about not wanting to give us an increase and in fact, some of the district’s response to us [was]: ‘Well if you need housing, find a veteran teacher and room with them’ so that makes us realize that Wow! These guys really appreciate us a lot! sarcastically speaking.”

     As some teachers grow impatient, others simply flee for better opportunities away from the Bay Area’s competitive housing market as they no longer can endure the long commutes in the drive to and from school while finding time to support their families. With the good and qualified teachers being chased away by a competitive housing market unmatched with a competitive salary, the school district’s stubbornness is lowering standards for staffing, lowering the overall quality of the education being served to the communities.

    “A lot of teachers can’t afford to live in this community, which means they can’t vote on city issues that affect their students,” FUDTA member Mr. Howard said. “And that impacts more than just their personal lives. It also impacts their professional lives because you’re not going to want to stay after school to do any meetings or help students because the traffic only gets worse.”

    More concerns amongst the teachers grow with the demand for more suitable healthcare coverage that is currently absent from their work contract. Healthcare insurance prices are increasing while the current FUSD teachers’ salary remains stagnant, which makes it difficult for the teachers to keep up as they cope with numerous other finances for a living.

    “My current situation is a little better than newer teachers because I’ve been working here longer so I make little more money, but about half of my salary goes towards healthcare,” Physics teacher Mr. Benn said. “But if you’re single, have a family, or folks who are renting, costs get even more expensive, and that’s probably one of the biggest issues.”

    The first step to solving the problem is acknowledging that there is a problem. And so, as red buttons continue to flood our classrooms while more and more teachers show support for the cause, some members of the FUDTA hope to see progress in the treatment from FUSD by getting the district to acknowledge their concerns.

    Mr. Rojas spells out loud and clear a shared demand for the district: “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.”

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