Nearly two decades ago, Manhattan Beach consolidated its elementary schools and high school into a new district, MBUSD. At that time, Manhattan Beach’s elementary teachers were paid 10% less than their high school counterparts. Under state law, it was mandated that their salaries be brought up to the level of the high school. Meanwhile, the high school teachers had negotiated a 5% pay increase prior to the vote on unification.
In this first test of a unified district UNION, it would have been very easy for the elementary teachers to hang their high school counterparts out to dry. Heck, they had a 10% pay increase in their hands. Instead, the elementary and high school teachers overwhelmingly voted down a contract proposal that would have awarded the elementary teachers their 10% and left the high school with nothing. We went back to the bargaining table with high school and elementary teachers united in cause and action. It wasn’t easy. The district was convinced that they could divide us. They believed comfort and self-interest would prevail over the interests of the whole. They were wrong. We stayed united. We took job actions. Everyone participated. When the district saw that they couldn’t break us, they agreed to a new tentative contract in which the high school teachers received their promised raise and the elementary teachers received their mandated increase PLUS the raise given to the high school teachers.
We are living through challenging times. The lesson of 1993-94 is that by sticking together, by fighting for our collective interest rather than fighting each other, and through a willingness to act to show the district and community our value to the educational process, we CAN get what we deserve.