Kate teaches in Oakland, and her union is in some tough negotiations with the district over its next contract. Since the district, like nearly all the urban school systems in California, is in serious financial trouble, the teachers agreed to a 4 percent cut in salaries last year. Now the district wants to cap health-care contributions in a move that would cost most teachers something like 250 bucks a month. Doesn’t sound like a whole lot, but 1) that’s $3,000 a year and could cost teachers another 5 percent or 10 percent of their wages; and 2) that $250 a month is just for starters — the cap would limit the district’s cost and make teachers eat the inevitable future health-care costs. A neighbor who lives across the street teaches in Fremont, a city between Oakland and San Jose, and teachers there struck that sort of deal with the district a few years ago; he says he’s paying $10,000 a year now to insure himself, his wife, and their two daughters. (Gee, where is this issue in the presidential campaign?)
Anyway, the Oakland teachers are gearing up for a big labor fight, and today they held a rally and march from Lake Merritt to downtown. It was probably the first labor event I’ve ever attended on Labor Day.