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On the picket line

March 18, 2005 | Page 11

Berkeley, Calif., teachers
By Jean Whittlesey, Berkeley Federation of Teachers

BERKELEY, Calif.--In an effort to win a fair contract, members of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers (BFT) began to work to rule February 22.

Teachers and counselors are working only the seven-hour-and-10-minute duty day agreed on in their now-extended contract. This has meant minimal homework for students and, for teachers, no grading or planning at home, extra help after school or extra planning for special events.

The union is now in mediation after two years without a contract. On March 3, 200 out of the 700 teachers and counselors showed their solidarity at a negotiations report meeting by declaring 100 percent participation in the slowdown.

The Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) has offered zero raises and demanded increased health co-pays from teachers, amounting to a cut in pay. The other issue for teachers is class size, which has reached 35 for many teachers and as high as 48 for physical education classes. The BUSD used a "fiscal emergency" loophole to spend longstanding voter-mandated funds intended to lower class size on other budget items.

In the November 2004 election, the BFT helped campaign for a new ballot measure to lower class size again, the only tax increase that Berkeley voters approved. Now teachers want a guarantee that this new money will be spent for its intended target.

The next mediation session is March 15, after which BFT members will decide what's next. A work-to-rule strategy worked in 1999--let's keep up the pressure!

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