After a two-year impasse, the Long Beach Board of Education and the Classroom Teachers Association announced last week that they had agreed on a new contract.
At the March 9 school board meeting at the Long Beach Public Library, officials said that members of the CTA — about 400 teachers, guidance counselors and nurses — would see salary increases over the next four years of a five-year agreement.
The CTA had been working under the terms of a contract that expired in June 2015, and had been calling for a new agreement.
The deal was announced on the same night that hundreds of protesters, including members of the City Council, Professional Firefighters Local 287 and the Long Beach Civil Service Employees Association, rallied outside the meeting in support of the Long Beach School Employees Association, which has also been pursuing a new contract. Hundreds of the employees that make up the group — about 500 bus drivers, maintenance workers, clerical staff, food service workers, teaching assistants, aides and custodial staff — protested what they called a lack of progress in their contract negotiations.
The LBSEA’s contract expired more than 560 days ago, in June 2015, its president, Joanne Rea, said. It was finalized in the 2014-15 school year, and covered the two preceding years.
Rea has said that the average salary for LBSEA members is about $25,000 per year, and that members pay 15 percent of their health benefits. “We’re not trying to get rich — none of us are,” she said. “We just want to pay our bills like everyone else.”
City Council Vice President Anthony Eramo — who is a Verizon field technician and serves as the chief steward for Local 1106 — and Councilwoman Anissa Moore were among the protesters. “I think that unions don’t only stand up for their members, but they stand up for all workers,” Eramo said. “Everyone deserves a fair contract, and to be treated with dignity and respect at work.”
At the end of 2016, the school district and the LBSEA declared an impasse, and an independent mediator was brought in to help them reach a settlement. “They’re getting closer, and you never want to take that pressure off,” Eramo said. “That’s why I was there supporting them. Getting support from other unions is very important. I think that’s a big part of the labor movement — that we all support each other.”
At last week’s meeting, school officials did not address the protesters or the ongoing negotiations with the LBSEA, but in the past they have said that the district has a responsibility to take into account financial constraints caused by the state’s tax cap.
After two years of negotiations, the settlement with the CTA — which takes effect April 1 — benefits union members as well as the district, officials said.
Teachers will continue to contribute 15 percent of the cost of their health insurance premiums. As well, teachers are now required to work one additional day that the district has added beginning next year — a total of 181 days instead of 180. For the current year and 2017-18, their salary increase will be .5 percent. It will rise to .75 percent for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years.
CTA members who are currently on step 17, 18 or 19 of their salary schedules will also receive a $300 payment this year.
“We are pleased that our board and teachers’ union have come to an agreement, and that we are able to provide continued benefits to our staff members,” Schools Superintendent David Weiss said. “The efforts and time of all involved are appreciated.”
“We were all very happy that we could end the [negotiations],” CTA Executive Vice President Karen Bloom added. “We finally got it done. It was a good ending.”
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the LBSEA consists of nearly 1,000 employees and the average employee earns less than $40,000. We regret the error.