CTA Employees Picket Union Conference

The California Teachers Association continues to be dogged by labor problems with its own staff. At CTA’s regional leadership conference in San Jose over the weekend, the staff union set up an informational picket line and interrupted the proceedings with a loud, but peaceful, protest in the ballroom.

Here staffers confront CTA president Eric Heins.

Wearing red shirts with the slogan “Bargain Like a Union, CTA Officers,” the staffers accuse CTA management of stalling on talks to “fix the red zone,” that is, to increase funding to their pensions so that they no longer fall below the 80% level federal agencies set for financially healthy retirement systems.

For their part, CTA’s elected officers claim it is the staff union that has failed to accept proposed bargaining dates. In a September 23 memo CTA managers stated, “We believe that the matters of bargaining should stay at the bargaining table, but do want you to know that your bargaining team is committed to continuing to provide a secure retirement to all CTA employees that also allows CTA to continue to provide support to you – our members, local leaders and local chapters.”

The memo’s language is interesting when you consider how CTA deals with pension negotiations with school districts. For example, CTA calls for “shared commitment and sacrifice in the solution design” and asserts that “over the past nine years, CTA has increased funding for employee retirement benefits and retiree health care by 21%, while the employee contribution remains at zero.”

Additionally, CTA is concerned that its current pension costs are unsustainable. The memo tells us, “The Retirement Trust currently has significant legacy costs and we should avoid adding even more that could impact future retirees. The current unfunded liability is more than $105 million.”

There is one solution I’m pretty sure CTA won’t consider: Simply raise the dues of the wealthiest 1% of teachers.