Dear Jasper and Kestrel,
I have been a teacher in Salinas for almost 30 years now, so I have been a member of the local Salinas Elementary Teacher’s Council for that long. A Union is a way for people to join together to make sure their jobs are safe, fair, and that they can make a decent wage doing it. Unions have been helping workers for hundreds of years. Through protest, strikes and other peaceful means, Unions have gotten rid of Child Labor, given us the weekend and the minimum wage, and made sure factories are safe to work in.
The Teacher’s Union here in Salinas has been having a disagreement with our administration. The disagreement is mainly based on how District money is being spent. Teachers and classified employees seem to be the last thing anyone wants to invest in! We want to be able to make our house payments and have reasonable health insurance for a good price.
The administration tells us this is too expensive. They want to keep our pay low while asking us to do more work….deal with disruptive behaviors, be mental health counselors, and give tests we don’t have any control over. They say that if we work more days, they will pay us more, and that THAT is our raise. But getting paid more for working more isn’t a raise…it’s just working more for the same rate of pay.
About 18 years ago, the teachers here in Salinas joined together in a big way to fight a different set of administrators over pay and benefits. And now we are at it again. Monday night about 75 teachers marched outside the District Office on Main Street in the rain, wearing our lovely teal SETC shirts. Kids came along and held signs. We waved at cars and they honked back at us in support. When the Board meeting was about to begin, many of us walked inside and stood at the back of the room or took seats in the audience. Some held up their signs.
When the Board walked in, the President asked that we put down our signs. We declined. He said this was a place for civil discourse. We stood quietly, with our signs. He referred to one of our teachers as “Honey” in explaining why we needed to stay quiet. This was not received well.
He asked our President, Oscar Ramos, to tell us to stop cheering for speakers. Oscar said that, out of respect, we would not interrupt anyone who wanted to speak, but we would cheer appropriately when moved to do so. The President wasn’t happy, but graciously allowed us to speak and keep our signs up. I was curious what would happen if he hadn’t.
I had to leave before the meeting was over, but I was proud to have been able to take part in this protest with my Union. I was happy to see young and old teachers working to support their fellow teachers. I was proud to exercise my freedom of assembly and speech. And for the first time in way too long, I was proud to be an American. It felt good.