By Sawsan Morrar

The Sacramento City Teachers Association, embroiled in a labor dispute with the Sacramento City Unified School District, announced Tuesday that it will hold its second strike on May 22.

The teachers union made the announcement at a press conference at its Sacramento headquarters, joined by leaders from the California Teachers Association, Oakland Education Association, United Teachers of Los Angeles, Sacramento Central Labor Council, Service Employees International Union Local 1000, California Nurses Association and others.

The teachers union held a one-day strike last month on April 11 alleging unfair labor practices by the district. The strike stemmed from allegations by the teachers union that the district is not honoring its 2017 agreement, including directing health-plan savings strictly toward reducing class sizes and funding more health workers and counselors.

District Superintendent Jorge Aguilar sent a letter to the teachers union Monday stating it is in agreement with the SCTA that "when and if changes to the current health plan providers offered to SCTA members (HealthNet and Kaiser) are made and our budget issues are resolved, savings from those changes should go to improving services for students."

But the district says that since the teachers union has yet to negotiate changes, approximately $11 million of the district's dollars went to the health insurance company last year to cover employee health benefits. That scenario is set to repeat itself this year as well, the district says.

The district says the union has chosen not to meet with the California Education Coalition for Health Care Reform representatives, so the district said it is ready to implement changes.

"The district has been and remains ready to make health plan provider changes as soon as SCTA is ready," Aguilar stated in his letter.

HealthNet was restored for teachers and early retirees after the district unilaterally eliminated the health plan in a controversial move in 2015.

The second strike will come just weeks before the district's deadline to balance its budget and identify cuts to address a $35 million deficit by the end of June or face a takeover by the state.

According to a district tally, about 48 percent of Sacramento City Unified's 42,000 students did not attend class and about 86 percent of the 2,240 SCTA members did not show up to work on April 11. The teachers union said it believed 98 percent of teachers picketed on strike day.

(c)2019 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)