The sit-in that kicked off yesterday at the San Francisco Unified School District headquarters will continue at least another night. Union organizers, one of whom referred to the ongoing demonstration as an “occupation,” will remain until every SFUSD employee who has gone unpaid or been underpaid during the month of February, has been made whole, officials with the educators’ union said Tuesday.
“Last night was just the beginning,” said United Educators of San Francisco President Cassondra Curiel in a statement on Tuesday. “We will stay as long as it takes for SFUSD to pay every educator what they are owed.”
Support from city leadership is also growing. Union leadership has noted that Mayor London Breed has offered support and resources while new board members arrived with snacks Monday night. Board of Supervisors President Shamann Walton, Supervisors Myrna Melgar, Hillary Ronen, Matt Haney and Dean Preston, and District Attorney Chesa Boudin have appeared at related press conferences.
The union will hold another meeting at 5 p.m. in Board of Education meeting chambers.
About 20 public school teachers began the sit-in Monday afternoon.
At about 4 p.m. on Monday, March 14, more than 100 SFUSD employees—mostly educators—descended upon the district’s downtown headquarters, waving picket signs and drawing honks of support from passing cars.
The group said the district has some explaining to do—and some checks to write—after hundreds of SFUSD employees missed portions of their paychecks or were simply not paid at all. Nearly 300 educators are preliminarily on board with a class action suit by UESF against the district. SFUSD apologized, attributing it to a “steep learning” curve from the new system.
At least 600 district employees were issued checks to make up for those missed payments, said Superintendent Vincent Matthews on Monday.
The district had apologized for the error last week and pointed to a new electronic payroll system by way of explanation.
Soon after the group arrived on the third floor and settled in with a box of letters detailing educator paycheck woes, Matthews came by to apologize. He said checks are a priority and that the hope is that the issue gets resolved in weeks. Chief Technology Officer Melissa Dodd is now working on the issue full-time.
“I see you being here with your sleeping bags…There is no institution that should have made you…feel like you had to do this to get responses, do this to get answers,” said Matthews.
But Curiel insisted the incident could not be chalked up to a simple glitch.
“The problem is not the computer,” said Curiel. “This is the problem of the decisions of top management. Between the pandemic, layoff notices, and hundreds of payroll errors, we have had enough. We need these issues fixed immediately and for the people at the top to take responsibility.”
SFUSD spent more than $4 million on transition support by Infosys, the company behind the new payroll system EMPowerSF. The total contract was for $13.7 million.
For Ángel Rafael Vázquez-Concepción, an apology is not enough. The Everett Middle School educator, who teaches dual immersion history, said a recent check came for just $600.
“I’ve had to pull in so many favors from my family in order to make ends meet. You need to address the fact that you have injured me on a level that goes beyond apology. Because this is a very difficult job.”Ida Mojadad can be reached at [email protected].