California Educator

December 2018 / January 2019

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Fresno Teachers Association President Manuel Bonilla (left) and Fresno Unified Superintendent Bob Nelson. " We were breaking the narrative that collective bargaining is about partisan issues and showing that it is about improving education." — Manuel Bonilla, Fresno Teachers Association president and emotional supports, and we put these into bargain- ing language for the contract. Now the contract was seen in the right light — as a direct means to improve educa- tion, not just as a business transaction. You can't just listen. You must take action, and that won over the community. It also got teachers more excited. Teachers hadn't been involved with the union in the past, because they didn't see its role in the day-to-day work of the profession. Now they were seeing how the contract was interwoven into education. ey were get- ting involved, and we made sure their voices were heard. Be totally transparent We had a core bargaining team that worked during school hours, but we also had an evening team so teach- ers could hear what was going on with the process. At the first meeting, maybe 150 educators showed up. By the next, it grew to 400, and to 900 the next time. It just grew and grew. Everyone was invested. Everyone felt like they had a voice. We shared bargaining updates on social media to communicate with members, but also with the community. We were breaking the narrative that collective bargaining is about partisan issues and showing that it is about improving education. Give professionals the voice they deserve Beyond wanting to be treated as professionals, we heard from our edu- cators that they need to understand the district's vision. ey want clear expectations and a full picture of where we're going. ey want more communication and to feel that their time and expertise are valued and taken into account. I don't think every single educator feels now as if their voice is being heard, but we planted a seed of hope. Are we having great conversations at the district level and leadership level? Yes, but until it filters down all the way to the classroom, we are not done. We've begun the journey. Everyone feels like this is new and different. e question is, what will show that it's different? Hopefully we'll see that through the actions we take over the course of this contract. Stay Union Strong Had we not taken a strike vote, had we not been unified and engaged with our members, we wouldn't be here. e district leadership needed to know that teachers were speaking with a unified voice. Until you do that, they have no real motivation to bargain seriously. e only reason I was able to be in that room to have those tough conversations was because I knew we had the power of the membership behind me. Going forward, we must keep the members engaged to keep the union strong. at's how we serve our students and schools. Reporting and photography by Cynthia Menzel. A version of this story appeared on In October 2017, FTA membership had voted overwhelmingly to strike. 43 D E C E M B E R 2 018 / J A N U A R Y 2 019

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