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FUSD Accuses Teachers Union of Bad Faith Bargaining in PERB Complaint



At a rally last month, the assembled Fresno Unified teachers indicated support for a strike authorization vote in October if there is no contract by Sept. 29. (GV Wire Composite/David Rodriguez)
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Fresno Unified School District is accusing the Fresno Teachers Association of bad faith bargaining in an unfair practice charge submitted to the Public Employment Relations Board, the teachers union says.

PERB oversees disputes between employers and unions.

On its Facebook page, the union is calling the PERB complaint “nothing more than a distraction” that will not deter FTA’s efforts to negotiate for salary, benefits, healthcare, and other issues for the new teachers’ contract.

The old contract, which was extended by a year during the pandemic, is set to expire on June 30. At a rally last month, the assembled teachers indicated their support for FTA to call for a strike authorization vote in October if there is no contract by Sept. 29.

The two sides initiated their contract talks last year by engaging in “interest-based bargaining,” in which both sides try to reach mutual agreement on issues. But after multiple sessions, the talks broke down, and the union submitted its “best, final, and last offer” the same night as the rally on N Street in downtown Fresno.

Union Claims Nelson Is Trying to Restart Negotiations

The union says that by submitting the unfair labor practice charge to PERB, Superintendent Bob Nelson is trying to hit the restart button. The district wants PERB to “force FTA to retract our offer to the district and reopen negotiations on bargaining ground rules, effectively restarting the entire process,” the union said on its Facebook page.

FTA also contends that FUSD is falsely claiming that it had been willing to co-create creative solutions, but that “at almost every turn, FTA refused.”

District spokeswoman Nikki Henry said Fresno Unified plans to release a “communication” Friday afternoon on the PERB complaint. Later Friday Henry emailed the communication and the PERB complaint, which the district filed on June 8.

“Fresno Unified is providing this update to clarify information issued by FTA on Fresno Unified’s UPC,” the communication says.

They include:

  • Fresno Unified is not unilaterally cutting $103 million from the healthcare fund but is making the reduction at the urging of the union and the Joint Health Management Board that oversees the fund.
  • The district has not ruled out lowering class sizes.
  • The 13% and 2-5% “raises” that the union says the district gave HR and other administrators was due to job reclassifications and a salary schedule adjustment that followed a compensation study.
  • FTA’s criticism that the district wants to link teacher evaluations to student outcomes ignores the fact that the Commission on Teacher Credentialing’s California Standards for the Teaching Profession already link the two.

FTA President Manuel Bonilla said Friday afternoon that the union hopes the PERB filing will not delay the contract negotiations.

As for the district being a willing bargaining partner, “Anyone who has followed the process would be able to see how unprepared they were,” Bonilla said in a text message to GV Wire. “However, they claimed that they came to the meetings ready to discuss solutions and that we refused to talk. The reality is that they were often unprepared, didn’t have the right people in the room, or would say ‘we’ll get back to you’ and never follow up.”

Bonilla said the district took similar action in 2016, but it was dismissed by PERB.

According to the school district’s communication, the district and union are scheduled to meet again on Thursday.

Fresno Unified’s PERB Complaint

Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email