FUDTA Teachers Protest for Pay Raise

Due to the increased cost of living in the Bay Area, FUDTA teachers organized a protest at the District meeting.

Albert Zhu and Pia Parekh

On Wednesday, Dec. 13, over two hundred teachers, staff members, and Fremont Unified District Teachers Association (FUDTA) representatives gathered together outside the district office to protest for a pay raise. Their main concern was the rising cost of housing in Fremont and in turn, teachers being unable to afford to live where they work.

“We have teachers that are living out in Tracy and Livermore because they can’t afford to buy a house here,” Thomas Birbeck, bargaining chair for FUDTA and active advocate for the increased pay raise, said.

Another issue that FUDTA seeks to resolve is that insufficient wages have led to a nationwide teacher shortage. The leaders of FUDTA believe that an ongoing salary increase for teachers, their ultimate goal for the FUSD board meeting, can help combat the teacher shortage. In order to obtain these salary increases, the teachers of FUDTA are seeking to negotiate with the district board.

“The money comes from the state for the most part, and the money goes through the district. The district’s job is to distribute it,” Chuck Ontiveros, a first-grade teacher at Weibel Elementary School, said. “Often times, they’re a little tight-fisted, and we’re just trying to loosen up their fists.”

Thomas Birbeck justified the protests by explaining that teachers take pay cuts when necessary.

“I think it’s important to note that in the hard times, teachers took pay decreases and there were fewer teaching days,” Thomas Birbeck said. “So it’s not that we don’t understand. If next year, for some reason, the budget goes bad, we’ll step up to the table, but we feel there’s money in the budget now.”

Negotiation is crucial, explaining the large turnout on Wednesday’s district meeting.

“This mostly affects teachers and their salaries, but it indirectly affects the students and families of them, too,” Ontiveros said. “It determines the salary of every school teacher, all the counselors and the nurses, all the people who work for the Fremont Unified School District because a lot of them—even the secretaries and the administration—get their cues from whatever bargaining we do.”

The stories that teachers told at the district board meeting reflected the magnitude of the issue.

“We want to spend our mental and emotional energy on our students,” Victoria Birbeck, the president of FUDTA, said at the district board meeting.

All the speakers at the meeting expressed that they were looking for a sustainable, viable solution rather than a simple temporary fix. Outside the district building, most protesters wore red to support FUDTA, and some people banged drums and cheered inside the district office. Many people at the event wore badges that said, “You can’t put students first if you put educators last,” a sentiment that was echoed throughout the event.