California Educator

February 2014

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PREG RIGHTS FU Maternity Advocacy A picture speaks 1,000 words 1975 photo of San Jose strike puts teacher maternity rights struggle in focus BY MIKE MYSLINSKI T H E P H OTO G R A P H OF two pregnant Educators were tired of Bay Area teachers on strike in 1975 school district disrespect. gives a whole new meaning to the term Maternity rights were "labor history." sketchy. Strikes flared The photo, taken during a strike in the around California. Mount Pleasant Elementary School District There wasn't even over maternity rights and other issues, a state law allowing shows the two friends smiling and standing collective bargaining for proudly with their handmade picket sign teachers at the time. Gov. in front of the CTA Mt. Hamilton office in Jerry Brown signed the San Jose. The sign is a pointed message landmark Rodda Act on Sept. 22, only Maternity and parental leave rights are to the school board about the a few weeks after the Mount a reality thanks to CTA advocates like Susan (Weld) Meschi and need to settle the strike: "I hope Pleasant strike ended, but it Sandi (Harmening) Martin. the board delivers before I do!" would not take effect until the Today, as retired educators following year. Susan Meschi and Sandi MarIn the mid-1970s, Mount tin reflect on the photo, the Pleasant and nearby school the 120 Mount Pleasant members walked memories of that walkout and districts had policies that picket lines in a tremendous show of solits issues remain vivid required pregnant women to idarity. "It was a pretty amazing time, all and personal. take maternity leave if they that was going on." (Listen to Essman talk "At the time, it was just were "showing" and therefore a about the strikes on the CTA oral history the right thing to do," Martin distraction, recalls retired CTA page at Susan Meschi says. "There are some things organizer Jim Essman. He says One victory of the strike was that sick that you just have to take the districts wouldn't allow teachers to use leave was allowed to be used for maternity a stand over." sick leave as part of their maternity leave. leave. The new collective bargaining conMeschi agrees. "You're not doing "At that time, you couldn't use your sick tract later allowed some district teachers it just for yourself, you're doing it leave," Meschi says. "You could to be paid retroactively for for everybody. You want to change somehave your six weeks, but you additional unpaid maternity thing permanently." couldn't use any of your sick leave they took beyond six She adds that the sign was meant to leave after that. So you had to weeks that they felt was neclighten things during the turmoil. "We come back in six weeks or be essary for their health and just thought of a sign that would make paid nothing. It wasn't fair." families, Meschi remembers. people laugh." Essman coordinated the Mount Pleasant strike in 1975 Maternity rights today Union pioneers and a simultaneous one in Pregnancy and parental leave They don't think of themselves as union nearby Berryessa Union School rights for public school employpioneers, but they were. District. He says nearly all of ees are protected today by Sandi Martin PHOTOGRAPHY BY SCOTT BUSCHMAN Educator 02 Feb 2014 v2.1 int.indd 39 FEBRUARY 2014 39 1/27/14 3:52 PM

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