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Baby Bumps and Teacher Benefits: Dispelling CTA Myths About Maternity Leave

Baby Bumps and Teacher Benefits: Dispelling CTA Myths About Maternity Leave

Last month, the California Teachers Association posted on Instagram: “This #WomensHistoryMonth, let’s fix a broken system that leaves educators without any paid disability related to pregnancy!”

The fix, California’s largest teachers union asserts, is Assembly Bill 2901, authored by Assembly Majority Leader Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters). If passed, the state would require school districts and community colleges to provide up to 14 weeks of maternity leave with full pay. The bill would require coverage for “pregnancy, childbirth, termination of pregnancy, or a related condition.”

If you take a quick browse through the CTA’s social media, you’ll find graphics demanding “Pregnancy Leave for Educators: The Time is Now!”

But the time was apparently 31 years ago with the passage of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act in 1993. The federal law grants more protection to educators than many other workers, since it applies to “all public agencies, all public and private elementary and secondary schools, and companies with 50 or more employees.” It requires that covered employees be granted 12 weeks of job-protected leave, though unpaid. The California Family Rights Act requires the same, but broadens coverage by applying to employers with just five or more employees.

While the California Family Rights Act only protects unpaid leave, the CTA’s own website notes  that educators receive additional protections under California’s Education Code: “You are also entitled under the Education Code to receive differential pay, which may be no less than 50 percent of your regular salary, during CFRA-covered parental leave after you have exhausted all available sick leave.”

In other words, while there may be variances between school districts, California teachers still receive some compensation during maternity leave after using accumulated sick leave, which is more than private sector workers in California are legally entitled to.

The CTA’s social media campaign admits none of this, suggesting instead that teachers have no access to maternity leave and must meticulously time the conception and delivery of their children in order to take any time off — and fully unpaid time, at that. One Instagram video features CTA Secretary-Treasurer Erika Jones recounting a lunchroom conversation in which teachers discuss when their colleague “should have her baby in order to make sure she would actually get time off.” Jones says she has overheard “hundreds” of conversations like this over the years.

Translation: Most teachers simply don’t know the complexities of federal and state law surrounding parental, maternity, disability and medical leave, and the union isn’t going to correct the record.

Jones proceeds to conflate paid parental leave with the right to take maternity leave at all. For those familiar with CTA messaging, this will come as no surprise: Perhaps because they’re accustomed to working with captive audiences in the classroom, teachers union leaders have for years propagated myths about teacher compensation.

In addition to maternity leave, the CTA is also focused on pregnancy disability leave, which is also protected by state law for both full-time and part-time employees experiencing disability as a result of pregnancy, childbirth, or a related condition. While the CTA social media campaign suggests that educators have no access to pregnancy disability leave, the union helpfully explains on its website that, under the California Pregnancy Disability Leave and Education Code statutes, “if you have a pregnancy-related disability before or after the child’s birth, you may use all annual and accumulated sick leave and then up to five school months of differential pay leave, as long as your need for pregnancy disability leave is verified by your physician.”

“You do not need to work for a specified length or amount of time to be eligible,” the website explains. “The district can run PDL concurrently with this differential pay leave.”

Perhaps the CTA would benefit from a review of its own reports on employee rights and benefits, and they may consider simplifying the explanation of the law so teachers can easily understand their rights. If, as Jones suggests, teachers throughout the state fear they must time their conception and deliveries just right so they’re able to take maternity leave, the CTA should be scrambling to improve communications about member rights California has protected for decades.

The CTA has a credibility problem, but the solution is within their control. Instead of saying that educators need pregnancy leave now — since they’ve had that for years — the CTA should be forthright and demand “14 weeks of fully paid maternity leave now!” to avoid confusing their members and the public.

Social media graphics published by the CTA for their campaign.



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