The Fresno Teachers Association has proposed a policy in their contract proposal to open high school parking lots to homeless families, with the acknowledgment that it would require “paid security” at a cost of at least $500,000. Union president Manuel Bonilla is pursuing several costly proposals aimed at addressing what he calls “societal things.” The Fresno Unified School District has resisted these demands, leading the union to consider authorizing a strike in the coming weeks.
This effort by the teachers’ union to transform parking lots into safe havens for the homeless mirrors a broader trend among teachers’ unions across the country, using their bargaining power to advance left-wing priorities. In Oakland, for example, unionized teachers shut down public schools for two weeks in May, demanding reparations for black students in their contract proposal. Similarly, unionized teachers in Portland, Oregon, threatened to strike unless their district provided subsidized housing for low-income students.
While some public districts have conceded to these demands, Fresno Unified School District has not. Superintendent Robert Nelson questioned the homeless parking lot proposal, stating that it falls outside the district’s expertise. A union vote on October 18 could lead to thousands of teachers going on strike, potentially exacerbating the learning loss already seen during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Fresno Unified school board has taken measures to prevent a strike from causing further disruptions by allowing the district to employ emergency substitute teachers. Spokeswoman Nikki Henry emphasized the importance of keeping schools open and safe for learning, especially after the pandemic-related closures.
The Fresno Teachers Association has also pushed for additional demands, including free laundry services for district families, 24-hour access to mental health services, and free yoga and meditation classes on weekends. Negotiations have been ongoing since November 2022, and the district offered to increase the average teacher salary to approximately $100,000. However, the district has expressed concerns that some of the union’s proposals could jeopardize its financial stability, emphasizing the need to make responsible fiscal decisions.