Fresno Unified's substitute teachers union walked back their commitment not to cross picket lines during a teachers strike. Credit: Dani Bergstrom / Fresnoland

What's at stake?

Fresno Unified's substitute teachers union walked back an announcement they made last week, stating members voted "unanimously" not to cross picket lines during a Fresno teachers strike. The district is relying on substitute teachers to keep schools open if the Fresno Teachers Association follows through with their strike plans.

After facing pressure from the district, the Fresno Unified substitute teachers union backed down on their commitment not to cross picket lines during the teachers strike planned for Wednesday.

In an updated statement Oct. 27, the Fresno Area Substitute Teachers Association President Esther Rojas-Jasso said the union is “committed to honoring our contract with Fresno Unified School District.”

The statement also said it’s up to the “conscience” of individual substitutes to determine whether or not they honor the picket line, stating it’s their right under the Educational Employment Relations Act.

The district thanked the substitute teachers union on Oct. 27 for “confirming they will honor their contract.”

“Fresno Unified wishes to reassure families that while unions often show public support for one another,” the statement said, “we are confident that the vast majority of our more than 2,300 substitute teachers will be there to support our students in their classrooms if FTA does decide to move forward with a teacher strike on November 1st.”

The substitute teachers’ initial announcement Oct. 26, stating members voted “unanimously” to honor the picket line, stirred the pot last week. The move threatened to throw a wrench in Fresno Unified’s substitute-teacher-reliant plan for keeping schools open during a strike.

Since the start of the school year, the district has advertised $500 a day for substitutes who work during a teachers strike. The school board voted to allocate more than $400,000 toward paying subs at this premium rate earlier in October.

The district quickly fired back at the substitutes union after the announcement, saying it was “deeply disappointed by this weak showing of FASTA’s leadership.” Fresno Unified also filed an injunction and unfair practice claim with California’s Public Employment Relations Board Oct. 26, accusing the union of violating a clause in their contract prohibiting sympathy strikes.

District spokesperson Nikki Henry said Monday that the district dropped the two claims it had filed with PERB following FASTA’s updated statement Oct. 27.

Despite FASTA’s announcement, both district leaders and substitute teachers cast doubt over how many substitutes would ultimately turn down the $500 a day in order to honor the picket line.

Alexander Orozco, a Fresno Unified substitute who plans not to cross the picket line, told Fresnoland in an interview that Nelson “intentionally put people in a difficult position, given the relatively low wages that substitute teachers make (and) enticing them with over two-and-a-half times as much as a current day would earn you.”

FTA leadership called out the district for their response to FASTA’s announcement last week, calling it an “attack.”

Fresnoland reached out to the Fresno Teachers Association for additional comment on FASTA walking back their claims.

The teachers strike is supposed to begin Wednesday. The union expects over 3,000 teachers to take to picket lines.

Support our nonprofit journalism.


Your contribution is appreciated.