Students across the district may have noticed teachers and staff decked out in black every Wednesday this semester as they present a united front in their negotiations with the school district.
The Walnut Valley Educators Association encompasses teachers, counselors and nurses among other faculty members at all K-12 institutions in Walnut Valley Unified School District.
“They’re wearing their black shirts to show solidarity,” Diamond Bar High School special-ed teacher and negotiator for the district Salli Collins said. “We’re working harder, the teachers here have been working very, very hard [but] we’re not paid as much as comparable districts in the surrounding area.”
Collins represents the Teachers Union for its members’ pay, benefits and working conditions.
Currently, teachers and staff members across WVUSD are wearing either plain black or their WVEA shirts once a week, and plan to do so until the district addresses their request.
At the school board meeting last week, WVEA President Lisa Peterson spoke to the board members about the organization’s concerns.
She described WVUSD teachers as “very overworked, very frustrated, very stressed and underpaid,” citing the lack of compensation as a reason many teachers have left the district.
She said the district was ranked 27th in salary compensation among 35 surrounding districts.
“That’s a little bit disheartening to the members of this district,” Peterson said. “I really feel that it’s about priorities, and maybe you think, ‘You know, our budget is so tight.’ But if we look at these other school districts, how are they able to do it? Why isn’t Walnut Valley able to? I just really want you to take into considerations the priorities, and when there is a will, there is a way.”
She specifically referenced Bonita Unified School District and Glendora Unified School District as ones with similar population demographics as WVUSD but higher worker’s compensation, despite their lower ranking.
Although this silent act of protest was not officially announced to the district, it has been successful in previous cases. According to Collins, students who take notice tend to inform their parents of the demonstration, which helps draw attention to their cause.
These shirts often make an appearance whenever members of the WVEA want to express unity in a cause.
“We wore [black shirts] last year, we wore them the year before, so this is not the first time,” Collins said. “Usually when we’re going into negotiations if we want to show that we’re solidarity the first thing we always do is wear black shirts just to make a point.”
Previous years have also seen the Teachers Union employ additional tactics such as having members speak at school board meetings and pass out papers detailing their concerns to parents.