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Strike authorization vote looms for union representing San Francisco school staff

SFUSD custodial supervisor talks about issues leading to upcoming strike vote
SFUSD custodial supervisor talks about issues leading to upcoming strike vote 02:56

SAN FRANCISCO -- Two unions with members who work for the San Francisco Unified School District will soon be voting whether to walk off the job in the coming weeks over stalled contract negotiations.

One union represents more than 6,000 teachers, the other represents school staff including custodians, school nurses and lunch workers.  

Teachers have been very vocal about their frustrations which they say include low pay, large classroom sizes and ongoing payroll issues that date back nearly two years.

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Christian Benitez has been working within the SFUSD for ten years and currently serves as the custodial supervisor, overseeing 14 sites.

"The environment right now with the district is a great exodus," said Benitez. "A lot of people are leaving. A lot of staff, a lot of teachers are leaving."

Christian is a part of the Service Employees International Union Local 1021. This union represents classified staff including custodians, cafeteria workers, clerks and others.

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"Staffing is another big issue that we're having as well. A lot of people don't want to work for San Francisco Unified School District, like people within our department, especially with the classified," explained Benitez. 

The custodial supervisor said the union will be taking a strike authorization vote starting on September 30th, citing that the district has unfair labor practices.

"Everybody's doing the work of two or three people," Benitez said.

The United Educators of San Francisco, the union that represents teachers in the district, are also gearing up for a potential strike.

KPIX reached out to the district for comment and Laura Dudnick, the interim Communications Director for the San Francisco Unified School District, shared the following statement:

"The district is working diligently and in good faith to reach an agreement with our labor partners.  We have met on a regular basis with them, and have multiple dates on the calendar to continue our discussions. Typically, bargaining for a Collective Bargaining Agreement of this size and at regular pacing takes a year or more. 

We appreciate our labor partners' efforts to advocate on behalf of their members. SFUSD has 16 bargaining units, and is committed to a budget process that prioritizes financial decisions that most directly benefit student experiences. Additionally, as stated in their April 7, 2023 letter, the state is still closely watching SFUSD's budget, and we must continue to address deficit spending and ensure we can meet our financial obligations."

Benitez countered, saying negotiations have gone on longer than a year.

"So we're going four years without a contract right now," Benitez said. "We've been in negotiations for that time and nothing has been concrete. We are still in negotiations as we speak right now. Tomorrow we'll be at the bargaining table with SFUSD."

In the next couple weeks, San Francisco Unified School District could face a staff walkout just weeks after students returned to classrooms after summer break.

SFUSD has 50,000 students across 132 schools in the city.    

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